Policy & Practice

Entitled Millennials and their Expectations

Reprinted from my “The Practical Business Radical Column” in The Business Press

I’m a Millennial. Born between 1978 and 2000, we grew up in the midst of rapid change, fueled by technological innovation. Some people say that we act entitled and that we have high expectations of our employers. It seems, however, that earlier generations had bigger expectations of their employers than we do. Here are the things I do not expect: I do not expect anything to be permanent. I do not expect to work for the same place for the next 25 years. I do not expect the company I work for to take care of me in my old age. I do not expect to ever be able to truly retire. There used to be expectations of pensions and “permanent” jobs, and Millennials do not have those expectations.

That being said, there are things that I do expect. I expect to be paid fairly based on the value I add to the company I work for, no matter what my age is. I expect that the length of the ladder I have to climb to get to the top will get shorter and shorter based on my performance and will have nothing to do with how many years I work at the company. Given the fact that I have no expectation that I will ever be able to retire, I expect to have a job that I love doing every day, to the point that if I became a millionaire and no longer needed to work, I would still want to keep doing my job.

I expect that judgment of my performance will be based on measures that matter and not on arbitrary and empty measures like how many hours I spend at the office or what time I arrive in the morning. I expect that the company I work for will give my ideas equal consideration alongside the ideas of someone with longer tenure. I expect that I will be given the freedom to manage my own time and my own performance. I expect the company that I work for to trust me, respect me, and build a team of talented, passionate people for me to work with.

This may seem like a long list. But the difference between the Millennial’s list of expectations and previous generations’ list of expectations is the price tag. Other than the expectation of fair pay for my contributions, most of the things I expect from the company I work for do not require any money. I am not asking for a pension or a fancy retirement plan. Trust and respect do not cost anything. Giving me the opportunity to have my ideas heard or take on leadership roles actually have the potential of helping the company I work for improve its financial performance. Giving me control of my time can improve company productivity and innovation.

In addition to having expectations of the company that they work for, Millennials often have high expectations of themselves, and of how the work they do will contribute to society in some way. They are willing to do what it takes – including rewriting the rules – in order to have an impact. This willingness to do things differently and to be unconventional can create significant tension because traditional business is more about following a standard set of rules and processes. Sometimes it is hard for Millennials to understand why their perspectives might not make sense to everyone. When I speak about our Results-Only Work Environment, I am often surprised that not everyone in the audience jumps on board with the concept right away. It makes so much logical and business sense to me, that it is hard to understand why other people would not see it the same way. When Millennials face these types of hurdles we just keep working until we amass the evidence and support to change the game.

As the number of Millennials in the workforce continues to increase, companies that do not pay attention to their expectations (and the strengths they bring to the table) will fall further and further behind. The expectations of Millennials can result in changes to the work environment that benefit all of the generations in the workplace and the company itself. We might have a long list of expectations, but it is our expectations that will help raise the bar of performance for your company.