The New "Free Agent" Mindset of Millennials
Spotlight on the Second Wave Millennials
Millennials don’t look at a large, established organization and think, “I wonder where I’ll fit in your complex picture.” Rather, they look at an employer and think, “I wonder where you will fit in my life story.” Every step of the way, Millennials want to find a work situation they can fit into the kind of life they are building for themselves. Because they grew up overly supervised, coached, and constantly rewarded by their parents, Millennials will never be content to labor quietly and obediently in a sink-or-swim environment. They are less likely to trust the “system” or the organization to take care of them over time and thus less likely to make immediate sacrifices in exchange for promises of long-term rewards. In fact, the Millennials’ career path will be a long series of short-term and transactional employment relationships: “What do you want from me? What do you have to offer in return now and for the foreseeable future? I’ll stay here as long as it’s working out for both of us.”
They have very high expectations, first for themselves, but also for their employers. And they have the highest expectations for their immediate bosses. And yet they are more likely to disagree openly with employers’ missions, policies, and decisions, and to challenge employment conditions and established reward systems. They are less obedient to employers’ rules and supervisors’ instructions. They are less likely to heed organizational chart authority. After all, they had incredibly close relationships with their previous authoritative role models, their parents, who treated them as equals. Instead, Millennials respect transactional authority: control of resources, control of rewards, and control of work conditions. Because they look to their immediate supervisors to meet their basic needs and expectations, they freely make demands of them.
Precisely because Millennials seem to both disregard authority figures and at the same time demand a great deal of them, leaders and managers often find Millennials maddening and difficult to manage. Meanwhile, the truth, of course, is more complicated.
Millennials are NOT a bunch of disloyal, delicate, lazy, greedy, disrespectful, inappropriate slackers with short attention spans, who only want to learn from computers, only want to communicate with hand-held devices, and won’t take “no” for an answer. Our research demonstrates clearly that Millennials want leaders who take them seriously at work, not leaders who try to humor them; leaders who set them up for success in the real world, not leaders who pretend they are succeeding no matter what they do.
Yes, of course, Millennials want more money, more flexibility, more training, more interesting projects, and more exposure to decision-makers. Yes, they want more of everything! But they don’t expect any of it on a silver platter. They just want to know, every step of the way, “Exactly what do I need to do to earn that?!”
Without credible long-term promises from employers, employees of all generations no longer labor quietly and obediently. Rather, most employees work anxiously to take care of themselves and their families and try to get what they can from their employers – one day at a time. People of all ages and all levels realize nowadays that they are “free agents” because they have no other choice. Read on here.
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