The millennial generation has faced a great deal of criticism, and in some cases, scorn from older generations. We’re seen as selfish, entitled, and demanding, not to mention addicted to technology.
Are these stereotypes true? Certainly not of all millennials. But there are certain tendencies and habits that are correlated with the millennial generation, more than any other generation — and they run both positive and negative.
Let’s focus on the negatives. For now, let’s set aside the fact that you can’t categorize an entire generation, and behavioral traits and stereotypes can’t be empirically proven to exist. Instead, let’s focus on the bad workplace habits that older generations perceive millennials to have, and work on eliminating them.
Regardless of how much of a stereotypical millennial you believe yourself to be, you’ll make a better impression in your new work environment if you avoid these common bad habits:
1. Making demands instead of requests. Millennials do have a habit of making demands, and setting more rigid requirements for their workplaces. On some level, this is good; too many modern workers are afraid to voice their opinions, and would rather keep their heads down than verbally address something wrong with the organizations. However, when voicing your opinion, turn your demands into requests. Making a request of your employer shows more respect and subordination than making a demand, which is especially important if you’re new to the organization. The more experience you earn, the more demanding you can afford to be, but start out by making requests instead.
2. Exhibiting overconfidence. Confidence is good, but overconfidence can ruin your reputation if it’s perceived as arrogance. Millennials tend to overestimate their abilities and knowledge in the workplace, which is especially irritating to older generations who have spent far more years on the job. Recognize that your superiors have been at this job longer than you have, and don’t be afraid to exhibit confidence — as long as you keep that confidence reasonably in check. It’s better to perform well with a sense of humility than to boast about your abilities and fail to meet expectations. Like with making demands, you can demonstrate more confidence over time as your accomplishments start to speak for themselves.
3. Relying only on certain forms of communication. Most millennials prefer text-based forms of communication over voice-based forms. They’re more comfortable with mediums like SMS text and email because they’ve grown up with these formats, and recognize the fact that they give you more time to put your thoughts together (not to mention leaving a paper trail). However, it’s important to recognize that not everyone prefers to communicate this way — and there are advantages to having phone calls over emailing. Showcase a degree of flexibility in the way you communicate, and you can eliminate this bad habit altogether.
4. Talking more than listening. This is a bad habit for any generation, not just millennials, but for millennials, it’s far more damning. Because millennials are seen as self-centered and overconfident, talking too much can be seen as an exacerbation of these qualities (even if it’s just a result of your extroverted personality). Instead, make a conscious effort to speak less and listen more, especially when you’re in the company of someone more experienced or more authoritative than you are. You’ll end up making a better impression, and more importantly, you’ll learn more in the process.
5. Assuming a certain behavior or action is okay. Office environments are becoming more relaxed. Work schedules are becoming more flexible, etiquette is becoming looser, and dress codes are becoming increasingly more casual. These trends are facilitated by increasing technological sophistication and decreasing reliance on old-school business tropes. However, this isn’t a free license to show up at the office whenever you want, wearing whatever you want. In fact, doing so could mark you as both overconfident and disrespectful. Don’t just assume a certain action or behavior is okay — if you’re even slightly in doubt, ask someone.
6. Multitasking. Millennials grew up with technology that provided instantaneous information on-demand. They work fast and think fast, which makes them highly productive and ingenious. Unfortunately, this high pace also lures them into the multitasking trap, tempting them to try and accomplish many things simultaneously in a bid to work as fast as possible. As more people are beginning to realize, multitasking is ineffective, and engaging in multitasking could weaken your performance in multiple areas.
7. Staying plugged in. Again, thanks to millennials’ natural history with technological devices, we tend to be more reliant on them than our older generation counterparts. There’s a perception that millennials are addicted to technology, so if you want to combat this stereotype and improve your reputation in the process, avoid staying “plugged in” for too long. Walk away from the computer every once in a while. Leave your tablet behind for that important meeting. Above all, don’t check your smartphone when you’re having a conversation.
The truth is, there are some differences that set millennials apart from other generations. This doesn’t mean millennials are bad workers or good workers — it just means they work differently. Acknowledging those differences, and compensating for them when they create workplace dissonance, can help you better adjust to your job, and make a better impression with the people in charge.
Focus on eliminating these bad habits, and you’ll stand apart from the rest of your generation.
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