The Rise of Millennials at Work

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Recently I went to Vegas to speak at an HR Strategy a conference. I was so zero chill about this trip because:

  • Well, it’s Vegas of course, YOLO (You Only Live Once)
  • If I hadn’t accepted the gig it would have led to a major FOMO (Fear of MIssing Out)

Okay, okay, some of you probably have no idea what I just said and others of you are probably laughing your ass off because I’m totaling destroying your slang. For a short glossary of terms, scroll to the end of this story. 


Part of my talk in Vegas is about Millennials (who I prefer to describe more broadly as Digital Natives which encompasses anyone who has been embracing a digital world for most of their life).
For years now, people have been asking: how do we prepare for the Millennials who will be invading the workplace? I’ve got news for you, Millennials aren’t coming, they are already here. Close to 50% of the workforce is currently made up of people born between 1977 and 1997.
I’ve heard this said in many settings about Millennials, usually by managers who are Baby Boomers or Gen X’ers: I am not sure how to work with them, what motivates them, and why they are on their phones all the time?
Let’s look at a few myths about Millennials at work. Plus, we got some tips that will make it easier for you to communicate and engage your Millennial colleagues, direct reports, friends, and maybe even your kids.
Myth # 1: They are lazy It’s not that they won’t do what you ask, it’s more likely they will do it differently. They want to get tasks done in the most efficient, least time-consuming way and squeeze out the max results. They don’t want to get things done “just because”  – they usually want to know why.

Myth #2: They bounce around from job to job and don’t really have any loyalty.

Work is not everything millennials want in life. They want to have time for their friends, family, hobbies, experiences, and pastimes. In that way, they are no different to anyone, really.

The thing is they didn’t buy into the notion that you must defer enjoying and truly experiencing your life until you stop working (i.e. like traveling after you have retired), the same way older generations often do.  And increasingly, older populations are saying the same thing. Maybe everyone is beginning to realize: YOLO.

Myth #3: They expect to be promoted without having earned it.

That’s not exactly true. They do want and expect to receive acknowledgment and opportunities quickly whether that is an expanded role, opportunity, or simply feedback.  They are far less hierarchical, more collaborative.  They may not believe that slogging away for years, paying your dues is the secret to bigger and better opportunities.

Asking for an opportunity isn’t a sign of entitlement, it’s a more a sign of interest and a willingness and they are fortunate to be less afraid of being told no, not yet.

Want to learn some of their lingo?  Check this out:

  • Zero chill/no chill: Overly excited as in “I am so zero chill about going to Paris next week.”
  • YOLO (acronym): You Only Live Once
  • FOMO (acronym): Fear of Missing Out

And let’s not forget… The Struggle is Real:  A phrase used when you are going through a tough time that is more of a first-world challenge as in “Oh no, the ice cream shop is closed. The Struggle is Real.”
Shots Fired: Usually a reply given right after a someone gives a witty, pointed remark or serious burn towards another person. For example: Person A says: “Wow that outfit makes it look like you got dressed in the dark.  Person B (makes a frowny face). Person C says: Oww, shots fired!

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