The Good Things We Can Learn from Millennials at Work

millennials at work

Imagine a workplace inhabited only by Millennials.

This is the scenario once posed by the New York Times Style Section, and then helpfully answered with the author describing "trim 20-somethings, with beards on the men and cute outfits on the women, who end every sentence with an exclamation point and use the word ‘literally' a lot."

The keen assessment is brought to you by the same venerable news section that insisted the monocle was making a comeback (Mr. Peanut Chic - you just can't make this stuff up). So take it with a very large grain of salt.

But if I were a Millennial (and I'm not), I'd be pretty tired of the broad strokes designed as character summaries (I'd also be tired of the perpetual predictions of professional doom - but that's a story for another day).

Sheesh. Why so crabby? Young people have been inviting their elder's ire since stone-age moms complained their kids were wasting all their time staring at that darned newfangled fire.

Let's consider what we can learn from Millennials at work.

Be Impatient

Yup - the Millennial impatient streak is the very thing that leads them to constantly look at the things that are hanging the rest of us up and try to figure out a shorter way around them. That same streak can also can be counted on to bust us out of that eight-word fallback phrase that can stall any of our forward progress - "But that's the way we've always done it." Yes - we can all use a little impatience.

Be Lazy

If by lazy, you mean actually doing things like calling in sick when you're, you know, sick...then yes...be that.  Millennials know the age of sick days viewed as weakness deserves to be banished. The victor is not the one who drops over on the job...and infects everyone on the way. Not feeling well? Hacking all over the place? Stay home. Get better. Come back when you're up to doing the job...and not contagious.

Be Idealistic

My generation may have perfected the art of the 80-hour-work week where the phrase, "I have no life" was a badge of honor. But maybe work doesn't have to be the end of fun, and there should be some air between the end of one workday and the beginning of the next. Today's young people are just idealistic enough to believe in things like eating dinner and taking vacation. Most Millennials at work - purportedly generation job hoppers - say they'd love to stick with a company for the long haul, and more than half of the Millennials we talked to said they'd gladly stay with a company if they felt it gave them a healthy mix of work and personal life. If they're intent are on telling us there's a more civilized way to have a career than to just work until falling over, we'd probably all do well to listen.

Be Entitled

What should you be able to expect from a job? How about the right to learn stuff. Millennials know that career growth keeps jobs interesting. And they're so dedicated to learning stuff that nearly two thirds of them told us they'd pick a job with professional development opportunities over one that offered more money. They'd even give up things like vacations and social media just to be able to take classes while working.

What Employers Can Learn from Millennials? Work Smarter

Do Millennials have some genuine rough spots? Well...yeah. But we can all probably look back on our 20s and pluck out the reality from our revisionist-history youth (Dear Dad: I'm sorry I never picked up a toilet brush when I lived with you).

But as with every generation, we brought some good things that stuck. And if this next generation has figured out the value of eating dinner at a table versus a desk; or of calling in sick; or of taking vacation...that doesn't make them less committed than we were.

But it might just make them smarter.

Written by: Lisa Oppenheimer

About the Author

Lisa Oppenheimer at Bright Horizons

As Director, Brand Storytelling at Bright Horizons, Lisa writes “from the trenches” about the real life challenges of people in today’s workplaces: from the tensions of being a working mother, to working with millennials in the digital age, and everything in between. With a career ranging from freelance to full-time, Lisa brings a diverse employment background to her perspective.