‘Entitled’ Millennials May Just Need To Adjust To Your Corporate CultureBy Lilit Marcus on July 18, 2012 in The Future of Work
When I was working on my book Save the Assistants, a guide for entry-level employees learning how to navigate the workplace, I got one of two responses from people who asked about it: Junior employees said “Oh man, what a good idea!” Senior employees said “What about a book for young people who are really entitled and need to get over it?”
Are Millennials Really Entitled?
The idea that younger employees are entitled and unwilling to work hard is not a new one. Almost every generation thinks that the generation after it is spoiled, lazy, and unappreciative. Like many stereotypes, this one contains a kernel of truth: there are indeed workers who show up on their first day expecting to be handed the keys to the company. But there are many more who want to work hard, learn a lot, and earn their promotions. The trick is being able to tell the difference.
Often, what looks like entitlement is an employee’s confusion about what is expected of them. Senior employees who have gotten comfortable with a certain way of doing things should keep in mind that there is a learning curve for new hires. Be wary of phrases like “everyone should know how X works” or “we’ve always done things with Y process.” Most likely, your intern or assistant is coming straight from school and may not have experience working in an office, let alone your particular office.
“Entitlement” May Just Be a Sign of Confusion
Many assistants who have been accused of being entitled report feeling bewildered or confused. Because so many colleges and universities teach students about careers rather than jobs, it’s not unusual for a recent grad to have great technical skills and abilities but not know how an office works, what the chain of command is, or whose job title means what. “I felt like I’d just landed in another country,” one assistant told me, describing her first day at her first post-university job. “It was like everyone spoke Japanese except me and I didn’t have a dictionary.”
How to Start New Employees on the Right Path
So what can you do to make sure your new young employee gets off to the best possible start? When explaining a process, make sure you don’t just explain the what – give some background about the why. Helping an entry-level employee understand why rules and procedures exist makes them understand how they fit into the mission of the company as a whole, rather than just feeling like a cog in a machine.
Furthermore, emphasize that you don’t give orders for the sake of giving orders; instead, show how every action helps move the company along. Feel free to point out areas for improvement, but also bolster them with praise when something goes well. If there are several levels of seniority between you and your employee, try to pair them with a mentor who is closer to the assistant’s age and experience level. It’s easy for an entry-level worker to see a huge gulf between their position and a higher-up’s position and get discouraged. Introducing them to a person who recently held their job can illustrate a potential career path and provide a glimmer of hope for attainable future opportunities.
But if you are accommodating and kind and your assistant still spends all day complaining about what a slave driver you are? Yeah, go ahead and use the E-word.
This post is part of Rypple’s The Future of Work, a series exploring the changing nature of work through articles, interactive media, and social discussion.