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Millennial Work and Communication

As I'm working through on my 2019 thesis, I'm really stunned and thrilled at how many of my necessary changes in workplace culture have actually been implemented - thanks to COVID. The pandemic completely reshaped flexibility in the workplace, but there are still threats. While many corporations have chosen to keep hybrid or remote work their preferred style, others have not. We're still waiting to see what the norm will be and how many managers will continue to demand five 8hr workdays per week, in-person.

I mentioned earlier, one of this Millennials' key traits is multitasking. They're comfortable using multiple devices simultaneously, a trait that's been fostered by the rise of technology. This ability to juggle multiple tasks at once has made them efficient learners, capable of quickly absorbing and processing information from various sources.

Disclaimer: I would assert that we learn more in less time, but perhaps not as deeply as previous generations. You might not find many Millennials that can give you the same level of detail in an issue or process than someone Gen X, but we can tell you about alternative options, how to find more info about it, or where online to find the people you need. It's shift in deep vs. wide learning styles.

In the last post, I mentioned this leads older generations - in the workplace, in restaurants, in person (literally everywhere, based on my experience) - to think that Millennials are disengaged, distracted, unable to focus, etc. Sure, there are those for whom it's true, but for most, this is not the case. Millennials have simply adapted to the fast-paced, information-rich environment that tech has created. They're capable of focusing when necessary, but they also know how to utilize their resources to maximize efficiency. Sometimes, when they're not paying attention, it's because they know they don't need to (you know damn well we've alllll been to those meetings). Sometimes, there's deep information we just ... don't need to know.

There's also been a blurring of lines between professional spaces and personal spaces. Most millennials are tethered to a device of some sort which led to issues of being “always on” or expectations of “always available.” This constant connectivity has influenced their communication styles, making them more immediate and direct. They're usually comfortable with instant messaging, emails, video calls, and social media, and they use these tools not just for personal communication, but also in the workplace. However, that access still needs boundaries, and it can sometimes lead to misunderstandings with older generations who may prefer more traditional forms of communication and scheduling. Taking time during the day to attend an appointment, pick up a child, run an errand, or have an extended lunch is pretty commonplace. You just work a bit later to make sure it's all one. If a manager expects at-your-desk labor from 8am-5pm, most Millennials won't answer a work message or call once 5pm rolls around - like ... even if the office is burning down. It's important for decision-makers to understand these differences in communication styles and schedules to foster an environment where all styles are respected and accommodated.

Another personal/professional line that continues to blur is politics in the office. As millennials become the majority of the electorate, their frustrations – education costs and debt, high housing prices, income stagnation, and lack of employee appreciation – will be expressed not just in organizational culture but also at the ballot box. The same way previous generations changed the workplace through legislation creating limited-hour work weeks, a minimum wage, and labor unions, future generations will seek legislative remedies to their burdens. The idea that a corporation will "take care of its people" is toast. I'll discuss that next. Stay tuned for the social contract! Some of the legislation ideas that have come up include:

  • Equal Pay Legislation: In many countries, legislation has been proposed or enacted to address the gender pay gap. These laws often require employers to pay men and women equally for doing the same work.

  • Gig Economy Laws: With the rise of the gig economy, some jurisdictions have proposed or enacted laws to provide more protections for gig workers. For example, California's AB5 law makes it harder for companies to classify workers as independent contractors rather than employees.

  • Paid Family Leave: In the United States, the FAMILY Act has been proposed, which would provide up to 12 weeks of paid leave for personal or family health issues. This would significantly impact workplace culture, particularly for working parents and caregivers.

  • Anti-Discrimination and Harassment Laws: Many jurisdictions have strengthened their anti-discrimination and harassment laws in recent years. These laws can have a significant impact on workplace culture by promoting diversity and inclusion and preventing harassment and discrimination. Still, a number of Anti-LGBTQIA+ laws and laws limiting women's healthcare are sweeping local governments nationwide. Younger generations do not accept that there are personal life vs. workplace life laws when it comes to social issues. Laws affect life, and they're not going to pal around with people at work who vote to harm their life.

This post is based on the thesis "Millennials, Be Yourself Sometimes" by Stephen Aber at Queens University of Charlotte, 2019.

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