Individuals born between the years of 1965 and 1980 comprise Generation X. Most of these individuals are now well integrated into the workforce. They have been working for several years, and many are now well-established in their careers. The Millennials on the other hand, born after 1980, are new to the world of work. Not surprisingly, the characteristics of this generation are not as well understood.
What DO we know about the Millennial Generation? Is it that they like to sleep late, are addicted to technology, and regard professionalism lackadaisically? Fortunately, the Pew Research Center conducted a study called “MILLENNIALS: A Portrait of Generation Next” (pewsocialtrends.org) in pursuit of some definitive answers. Data from the study paints a portrait of the Millennial Generation as “confident, self-expressive, liberal, upbeat and open to change.” Broadly, they tend to be less rigid about their work life, and crave flexibility in their lifestyle.
It’s not hard to see how these traits within the workplace can be easily misconstrued. The generation preceding GenX and the Millenials have had a very different workplace mindset. For these previous generations there is a stricter, more rigid, regard for professionalism and the “work ethic”. Conversely in their desire to seek flexibility, a Millennial may adopt a work schedule more conducive to their times of productivity – arriving later but frequently remaining late to burn the midnight oil. While these divergent approaches can sometimes cause workplace tension, they can also be value-added for the attentive employer. Those joining the workforce prior to the Millenials can benefit from their fresh approach and added energy, while a smart younger professional will take advantage of the opportunity to learn from the experience of older generations.
Of course, what is true of one person within a generation may be completely false for another. A shared experience of formative, defining cultural events leads us to exude similarities within our dispositions, creating a tone specific to that generation. But we must recognize that just as many complexities exist within one generation as exist between separate generations.