In 2015, more than 30% of employees consisted of Millennials or adults from ages 18 to 34 in 2015. This year, their number exceeded the number of Generation X employees, making them the largest number of employees among the American workforce (Pew Research Center, 2015). Last year, the population of millennial laborers already surpassed that of Baby Boomers, which declined rapidly as they retired. The problem resided from Baby Boomers retiring, which caused the leadership positions to increasingly become available because of the lack of Generation Xers to take these positions. As Millennials entered the workplace in large numbers, they were also expected to take on leadership positions (Nafei, Khanfar, & Kaifi, 2012). However, studies designed for understanding the nature of leadership of Millennials, in a generationally diverse workplace, remained limited (Chou, 2012).
The available studies on millennial leadership remained limited and inconclusive (Thompson & Gregory, 2012). The current research might close this gap by exploring the lived experience of Millennials in leading a generationally diverse workplace. The geographic location where the study will be conducted is Chicago, Illinois. The sample will consist of 10 millennial leaders in various work settings ranging from religious organizations, health care, and non-profit companies.
Addressing this gap remained necessary because this generation was currently leading different organizations. Hartman and McCambridge (2011) expected that Millennials would continue to be leaders of organizations of the future. Understanding what made them different and what could affect their success could lead to programs that would make them better and more effective leaders.
For the current review, major databases, such as EBSCOHost, JSTOR, ScienceDirect, PsychArticles, and Google Scholar were used. Search terms included: Baby Boomers, generational conflicts, generational workplace, Generation X, Generation Y, leadership styles, Millennials, millennial leaders, millennial leadership, and Millennials in the workplace. From the materials gathered, 97% were published from 2012-2015. Sources published earlier than 2012 were only used for the theoretical framework section.
For this review, the theoretical framework was discussed first, which resided from Lewin, Lippitt, and Whiteâs (1939) leadership style theory. Next, the relevant studies were discussed, which were subdivided into major themes: generational diverse workplace and its implications, generational profiles, leadership succession crisis, Millennials in the workplace, and millennial leadership. The chapter completed with a discussion of the literature gap and a conclusion derived from the findings of the existing literature.
Lewin et al.âs (1939) leadership style theory supported the current study. Lewin et al. (1939) conducted an experimental study that evaluated leadership behaviour, according to the distribution of decision-making authority between a leader and a follower, and found that that leadership styles could be presented in three patterns: autocratic, participative or democratic, and laissez-faire style. Among these styles, the most effective leadership style remained the democratic style.
The alternative leadership styles of autocratic and laissez-faire were only expected to lead to adverse results. First, autocratic leadership style would lead to a very controlling environment that did not serve to motivate; therefore, conflicts might ensue. Furthermore, laissez-faire leadership might likely lead to failure because followers lack directions (Burnes & Cooke, 2013; Billig, 2014).
Lewin et al.âs (1939) leadership style theory had been applied for studying Millennials by Chou (2012). Chou (2012) used the theory to provide organizations and managers an understanding of Millennials in the contexts of these three leadership styles proposed by Lewin et al. (1939). Chou (2012) claimed to be one of the first few researchers to extend Lewin et al.âs (1939) leadership style theory to the millennial generation. By extending this theory, Chou (2012) found that Millennials would show a participative leadership style in the workplace. Organizations could facilitate leadership effectiveness by reducing or addressing organizational barriers. In particular, organizational levels remained one of the factors that influenced leadership style of the Millennials; therefore, these should be given attention.
Review of Related Literature
Workplaces worldwide were being served by employees belonging to diverse and multiple generations, the Baby Boomers (1946-1946), which were standing on the verge of retiring, the Generation X (1965-1980), and Generation Y or the Millennials (1981-2000). The Millennials created the newest, as well as the largest, generational cohort of the current workforce, and were fully expected to receive upper management or leadership positions as Baby Boomers and some Generation X retired (Malik, 2014). This review of related literature, which served as the foundation for the current purpose of exploring the lived experience of Millennials in leading a generationally diverse workplace, presented first the literature on generationally-diverse workplace, which remained the one of the most common features of todayâs workforce is and could likely affect the effectiveness of Millennial leadership.
Generationally Diverse Workplace
The term generation referred to a recognized group of people who had common birth years and shared significant life events at important points of their development (Kupperschmidt, 2000; Gentile, Campbell, & Twenge, 2013). Research demonstrated that each generation retained distinctive work priorities, attitudes, and expectations (Kupperschmidt, 2000; Gentile et al, 2013). All organizations were affected by the values, as well as the preferences of the next generation individuals employed by them. In particular, Chaudhuri and Ghosh (2012) claimed that the simultaneous aging of workforce and the influx of Millennials into the workforce represented a significant demographic and sociological phenomenon that could have important effects for organizations across the world. For about the next decade, the Boomers, Generation Xers, and Millennials will be working side by side (Coulter & Faulkner, 2014).
Because of the above information, it became highly indispensable to identify and comprehend the work values of all generations, particularly those of young employees. This would help organizations determine the new ways to structure jobs, the new working conditions that must be in place, the compensation packages that worked best for employees, and the new human resource policies that could attract and retain most employees, especially from the youngest generation (Lu & Gursoy, 2013). Failure to understand what the Millennials or Generation Y demanded of the generationally diverse workplace could lead to misunderstanding, miscommunication, and conflict. Employee productivity, satisfaction, and corporate citizenship could also be negatively affected (Chaudhuri & Gosh, 2012; Lu & Gursoy, 2013). Lu and Gursoy (2013) specifically found that generational differences between Millennials and Baby Boomers existed in their levels of job satisfaction, job turnover, and burnout.
Leadership ideals were considered fundamental and timeless and might also vary among generations, the Baby Boomers, Generation X, Generation Y or the Millennials (Pritchard & Whiting, 2014). Different generations in the workplace retained unique personalities and work values, which might lead to generational conflicts and significant implications for leadership (Campbell, Campbell, Siedor, & Twenge, 2015; Gesensway, 2014; Nafei et al., 2012; Lyons & Kuron, 2014). According to Campbell et al. (2015) generational differences remained both real and meaningful. The cited researchers claimed that even though generations were unclear social contracts similar to other constructs under the social sciences, generational differences remained as real as racial and ethnic differences. Differences could be trivial, such as baby names; however, some could also be important, such as technology use, attitudes, tolerance levels for varying lifestyles, and even technology traits (Campbell et al, 2015).
Van Rossem (2014) claimed that the general age dynamics of the current workforce composed of Baby Boomer and Millennial employees working side by side, given the coming retirement of the former and their replacement by the latter had been posited as one of the greatest reasons why there remained a high academic interest in identifying and defining the Millennial employees. Despite the rising number of studies, the generation remained relatively unknown in the scientific community. Available literatures on the specific generational cohort, especially on their perceptions of what constituted positive leadership features, were mainly based on large-scale surveys, which led to diverging results. This explained why Van Rossem (2012) deviated from the use of conventional questionnaires in gathering the perceptions of millennial members. To understand what leadership characteristics Generation Y members perceived as worthy of influence, Van Rossem (2014) applied a cognitive mapping methodology, called the Repertory Grid Technique. Through this method, Generation Y participants provided personal constructs of what leadership attributes they looked for in their leadership and value according to their real life experiences. Results demonstrated that, through this method, findings of the current study deviated from findings of previous studies. Moreover, differences between millennial members of profit and non-profit sectors, in the attributes they considered worthy, were highlighted compared to previous studies.
This section of studies reviewed revealed that, even though not all members belonging to a generation could be considered the same to one another and lead to risks of stereotyping and overlooking of other important information on an individual employee or person, ignoring important information about real differences observable among groups of individuals could be a mistake for current and future leaders (Campbell et al, 2015). The next section provided a more extensive discussion of the unique characteristics of each generation.
In todayâs workforce, three generations working together remained the norm. Hiring managers were expected to know the unique characteristics of each generation, both personal and professional. Understanding their differences led to productive and harmonious work. Each generation had its own strengths and weakness, which literature had extensively discussed. This section further delineated these characteristics for each generation. To understand how Millennials could be effective leaders in a multigenerational workplace, the generation profiles of each needed discussion.
Baby boomers. The baby boom generation composed of people born between 1946 and 1964. Researchers (Dos Santos, Cipulla, Cestaro, & de Barros Augusto, 2014; Whitney Gibson, Greenwood, & Murphy, 2011; Ward, McKittrick, Heather, Green, & Naranjo, 2013) estimated that about 83 million Baby Boomers lived in America. Experts believed that the baby boom generation would continue to make up a significant part of the population until 2025.
The entrance of Baby Boomers into the workforce represented significance to the American economy (Dos Santos et al, 2014). When this generation entered the workforce, the amount of people in the labor force greatly increased. In the years following their entrance into the workforce, the average age of individuals in the labor market increased markedly (Dos Santos et al, 2014). The Baby Boomers generation achieved greater economic and educational success than the traditionalist generation achieved (Whitney Gibson et al, 2011). For example, the report explained that the real median household income of Baby Boomers was 35 to 53% higher than the previous generation. In addition, 25 to 35% of the baby boom population had at least attained a bachelorâs degree (Whitney Gibson et al, 2011).
The increase in levels of education obtained by this generation made them a capable force in the labor market (Ward et al, 2013). Currently, a great deal of upper management in corporate America consisted of members of the baby boom generation. This generation worked hard to achieve such prestige, even at the expense of their families (Ward et al, 2013).
The Baby Boomers also had a different style of leadership within the workplace (Chauvel & Smits, 2015). Baby Boomers often insisted that management communicate with lower level workers. Boomers respected authority and leadership; however, they also expected good communication between management and workers. This generation was the first to insist on a leadership style that was not just top-down. Boomers wanted to know if they were doing their jobs correctly and the steps that they could take to improve their performance. This new style did create some tension between the âbecause I said soâ generation and the âbut why did you say soâ generation. However, the generations worked together to overcome these differences for the betterment of their employers (Chauvel & Smits, 2015).
The Baby Boomers were said to be among the most intriguing generations that ever lived (Chauvel & Smits, 2015; Dos Santos et al, 2014). Their contributions to the betterment of the world and to the workforce remained monumental. The world that this intriguing generation created paved the way for the most misunderstood generation: Generation X. This generation would be discussed next.
Generation X. Generation X represented the thirteenth American generation and described the segment of the population born between 1965 and 1981 (Costanza & Finkelstein, 2015; Ward et al, 2014). There were approximately 46 million Generation Xers living in the United States. The term âGeneration Xâ was created by novelist Douglas Coupland and made popular by the media. Generation X was so unique because it represented the first generation that grew up in dual income households and often reduced to becoming latchkey children. Generation X children spent a great deal of time alone while their parents were working (Costanza & Finkelstein, 2015; Ward et al, 2014). For this reason, Generation X had a profound reliance on materialism and became consumed with technology. Many believed that Generation Xers were untrusting and relied only on themselves (Costanza & Finkelstein, 2015; Ward et al, 2014).
As this generation became a part of the American workforce, corporate America became aware that this generation represented an entirely different breed. Lessons learned in childhood about the importance of self-reliance trickled down to affect how this generation viewed the workplace environment (Costanza & Finkelstein, 2015; Ward et al, 2014). Quite often, managers saw this self-reliance as selfishness. However, this generation was simply trying to survive in a world that they viewed as untrusting. Generation Xers felt they had a right to question the motives of corporate America and the private sector. More than any other, Generation Xers understood the corporate game and remained willing to play, as long as they received compensation (Costanza & Finkelstein, 2015; Ward et al, 2014).
Evidently, the workforce understood the importance of this generation and admitted that they had great things to offer. In spite of the fact that Generation Xers often received negative labels, it remained the most educated generation that had ever entered the workforce. This generation learned best with multimedia products, such as computers and television. Managers understood the importance of skills involving technology and communications and had a need to hire this generation (Costanza & Finkelstein, 2015; Ward et al, 2014).
Generation Xers also understood how valuable they were to employers in the information age (Becton, Walker, & Jones-Farmer, 2014). They knew that they represented a desirable employee choice and that they were needed. Generation Xers used this fact to their advantage and expected to be paid high salaries, receive benefits, retirement plans, stock options, and bonuses. Members of this generation wanted all the perks that they could possibly get from an employer, and they would stop at nothing to achieve this goal (Becton et al, 2014).
One of the major problems that managers had with this generation resided from aiding the generation in adapting to working in a corporate context (Becton et al, 2014). Although this generation worked well in groups, a very strong element of self-reliance and independence remained. In many cases, managers must show the Generation Xers the importance of adhering to the corporate context; therefore, they could advance in the company (Becton et al, 2014).
Another problem that managers discovered with this generation resided from how they tended to be less loyal than their predecessors. Generation Xers remained less interested in company and more interested in what the company could do for them (Becton et al, 2014). This generation tended to go with the company that offered them the best deal and would instantly leave one company for another if they received a better offer from another company.
As far as leadership patterns were concerned, those belonging to the Generation X tended to be more blunt with leadership than the generations before them (Ganesan & Krishnamurthi, 2015; Keys, 2014). Generation Xers respected management, but they were not afraid to tell them what management was doing wrong. Individuals in the traditionalist generation would not question authority the way that Generation X did (Ganesan & Krishnamurthi, 2015; Keys, 2014).
Studies depicted the Generation X as a demanding group of employees (Ganesan & Krishnamurthi, 2015; Keys, 2014). This remained a keen reason why many of them did not pursue nursing as a career field. In the field of nursing these types of demands were unheard of, let alone granted. Generation X would not stay in a field or a job that did not satisfy their needs. Generation Xers looked out for their own self-interest at the sake of everything else. The nursing field would have to change drastically before this generation would consider it as a viable option as a career choice (Ganesan & Krishnamurthi, 2015; Keys, 2014).
Studies demonstrated that Generation X opted to enter majors that required easier work and paid more money (Becton et al, 2014; Ward et al, 2014). For whatever reason, Generation Xers tended to overlook the personal rewards that developed from nursing, such as saving the life of another human being. Although the members of Generation X had often been seen in a negative light, they did have grit about them that was almost refreshing. They learned from their parentâs mistakes, so they shopped around for careers. They understood that corporate America was looking out for its own self-interest and they endeavored to do the same (Becton et al, 2014; Ward et al, 2014).
Generation Y/Millennials. Generation Y were also known as the Millennials. This generation was composed of around 80 million people, born between 1982 and 2000 (Brack, 2012; Singh, 2013). Millennials had many of the same characteristics that Generation X had; they were computer savvy, self reliant, and talented. This represented an important generation because it outnumbered Generation X and would prove to be valuable to the labor market in the years to come (Brack, 2012; Singh, 2013).Sujansky (2002) explained that the generation was currently valued and sought after because of their âconsiderable volume.â (para. 4). While Baby Boomers retired, the number of Generation X remained not enough to replace the Baby Boomersâ work positions. To develop experienced and skilled young managers of the Millennials remained important for organizations hoping to remain competitive in the long run.
The Millennials were just beginning to enter the job market; hence, much about their workplace demeanor remained unknown. However, like Generation X, the Millennials were demanding and wanted to be rewarded handsomely for their time and effort. The Millennials wanted to compete with co-workers immediately upon entering the workforce (Brack, 2012; Singh, 2013). They expected considerable raises and wanted to be treated equally even if they did not have any real work experience. This generation did not think that it had to pay any dues. The fact of the matter was that, in some cases, they did not think this because the skills that they had acquired seemed needed and valuable. However, since the downturn of the economy, the Millennials found it difficult to enter the workforce, even with the impressive skills that they possessed (Brack, 2012; Singh, 2013).
Similar to Generation X, Millennials also expected that leadership would communicate with them on a peer-to-peer level (Brack, 2012; Singh, 2013). They wanted feedback between the two groups to be instantaneous. Attracting Millennials remained critical because they would be a larger part of the labor market than Generation X, and harmony in a generationally diverse workplace remained possible. This would be discussed in the next section.
Generations Working Harmoniously
Researchers provided some strategies for managers to use in dealing with multigenerational issues in the workplace (Bennett, Pitt, & Price, 2012; Holian, 2015). These researchers suggested that one of the most important ways to cross the generational divide consisted of utilizing with kind words and positive feedback. They also acknowledged the need for mutual respect amongst people from different generations. In other words, each generation had something to learn from another generation. Therefore, this should be seen as a positive thing and the generations should work together to achieve this harmony (Bennett et al., 2012; Holian, 2015).
Managers from the older generations must be cognizant of the fact that the younger generations needed praise and encouragement. They should not forget that just because these younger individuals were talented that they did not want to be acknowledged. Older generations had to be prepared to give feedback to younger employees or the Millennials (Bennett et al., 2012; Holian, 2015).
Currently Baby Boomers have the most responsibility of any generational group because they managed businesses and oversaw the success of various professions. The downsizing of many corporations had harmed top-level managers immensely because they were forced to handle several jobs simultaneously (Bennett et al., 2012; Holian, 2015).
Since Generation X needed constant reassurance because many had advanced quickly in their careers, ensuring that they knew where they stood in the company, which aided them in feeling confident and helped them to perform better. Managers had to make sure that they told Generation X workers the truth because Generation Xers valued sincerity (Bennett et al., 2012; Holian, 2015).
The millennials also needed positive feedback. In addition, this group needed to receive praise from management. If traditionalists were managing them, these managers must take special care to talk to this group about their performance. Studies warned that millennials tended to mistake silence for disproval and became discouraged with their job performance (Bennett et al., 2012; Holian, 2015).
Organizational commitment researchers provided various steps that could be taken to ensure that young employees were adapting properly to the corporate world. Most agreed that the first step that must be taken dealt with communication about the corporate culture of a specific organization (Cahill & Mona Sedrak, 2012; Cekada, 2012). Each generation, especially the millennials, needed to have a clear concept of what was expected of them in the corporate world that they were entering.
Organizations could use several different tactics to achieve this point, including orientations, meetings, interviews, and even weekend retreats. This type of communication must take place during the first few months of employment. By communicating with the new worker early, they became more aware of what was expected and were not surprised by the demands placed on them by the corporation (Cekada, 2012; Cahill & Mona Sedrak, 2012).
Researchers asserted that socialization remained another important step. Socialization remained critical because it taught workers how to perform tasks appropriately. Researchers provided that socialization remained often difficult for Generation X because they had to simultaneously do many other things, such as gaining familiarity with the company, adjusting to the corporate culture, and learning more about the job (Cekada, 2012; Cahill & Mona Sedrak, 2012). In addition, corporations must aid in the training of employees, so that they could work harmoniously with the Baby Boomers generation (Cekada, 2012; Cahill & Mona Sedrak, 2012).
Managers must take into consideration that this generation consisted largely of individuals that learned quickly and could adapt to situations that were unfamiliar. Many corporations needed to create a system of onsite training to aid the youngest generation in the development of these skills (Cekada, 2012; Cahill & Mona Sedrak, 2012). Managers must also realize that this generation thrived in environments that constantly changed. Managers must be receptive to the new ideas and techniques for solving organizational problems. In addition, organizations must focus on organizational and career development for millennials because this generation liked change and desired to be challenged. Researchers posited that this type of integration could be mutually beneficial for the generations, and they could help one another achieve the common goal of making their workplaces productive and their organizations thriving (Cekada, 2012; Cahill & Mona Sedrak, 2012).
Studies also claimed that, to handle multigenerational issues in the workplace environment, respect for the concept of diversity remained important (Berk, 2013; Sandhu, Benson, Sastrowardoyo, & Scott-Young, 2015). Generation X and Y inherited a world where cultural differences were viewed as a valuable asset instead of a handicap. When these two generations attended work, they wanted to see various groups working together towards a common goal. These generations had the tendency to believe that things just worked better when people were equally represented. Although this sounds like more of a political or social stance, it also applied to the concept of the workplace. Many in these generations believed that corporations that embraced diversity created better products, had a more global perspective, and genuinely cared about the world (Berk 2013; Sandhu et al., 2015).
The compelling concept about these generations resided from how they wanted diversity at every level of the organization (Berk 2013; Sandhu et al, 2015). They wanted minorities and women to contribute at the management level and at the entry level. When the younger generations witnessed people who looked like them, managing a corporation, it gave them an incentive to work hard and strive for excellence. Diversity represented an issue that could definitely aid in creating harmony in the multigenerational workplace (Berk 2013; Sandhu et al, 2015).
Although most of the tension that existed in the multigenerational workplace remained between the Baby Boomers and Generation X, there was also tension between Generation X and Millennials and between boomers and Millennials. An effective leader represented one who was willing to consider several options to relieve the tension between the groups (Berk 2013; Sandhu et al, 2015). One of the first things that must be done involved explaining the hierarchy within the organization. In many cases, Millennials believed that they would enter the workplace and take over the company in a year. They needed to understand the structure of the particular company that they were working for. The Generation X manager must teach the Millennials that a certain amount of dues should be paid if they expected to advance in the ranks of the company (Berk 2013; Sandhu et al, 2015). Another thing that Generation X managers could do for millennial employees was to provide them with additional responsibility. Generation X employees must realize that this generation thrived on responsibility (Berk 2013; Sandhu et al, 2015).
A final step that could be taken by Generation X managers involved concentrating on the similarities that the two generations shared. Both generations tended to be independent, have optimistic attitude, and want the same things from a career. Once the generations were able to focus on their similarities, workplace harmony would be inevitable (Berk 2013; Sandhu et al, 2015).
The section revealed that the literature of generationally diverse workplace remained optimistic that multigenerational issues in the workplace could be resolved as long as all parties took the time to understand the needs and motives of others. The generations could work together to achieve great things. An effective leader represented one who could effectively make this happen. The next section revealed that with the leadership succession crisis, wherein many Baby Boomers retired from their leadership positions and were replaced by Millennials, understanding what this generationally diverse workplace implied for the new leaders would be important.
Leadership Succession Crisis
For the next decade, Millennials were expected to take on upper level management positions (Sherman, Saifman, Schwart, & Shwartz, 2015). However, it remained unknown if Millennials were ready to take on these roles. It remained also unknown if American corporations were ready for this extreme turnover and shift in power (Sherman et al., 2015). This was called the leadership succession phenomenon, where more than 80 million Millennials were set to be promoted to higher positions (Lund & Thomas, 2012; Kralj & Kandampully, 2012).
The leadership succession crisis could be seen in varying industries. It could be seen in business organizations. Lund and Thomas (2012) claimed that, for the next decade, Millennials were expected to take on upper level management positions. However, it remained unknown if Millennials were ready to take on these roles and if American corporations were ready for this extreme turnover and shift in power. This represented the leadership succession phenomenon, where more than 80 million Millennials were set to be promoted to the higher positions. The cited researchers interviewed recruiters and found that in general, they were not confident about Millennialsâ ability to lead within the corporations. In particular, the cited researchers found that, to lessen the frustration that Millennials might experience when they took on leadership positions in a corporation with diverse workers from different generations, they must know the general characteristics of all the four generations in the workplace, particularly the new generation workerâs highly-confident and buoyant attitudes. To prepare for this leadership succession crisis, as well as the influx of next generation employees, corporate America should place prime focus on the individual and collective development of vision, emotional intelligence, personal branding, and leadership (Lund & Thomas, 2012).
It could also be seen in the field of healthcare. Sherman et al. (2015) evaluated that factors that might compel Generation Y nurses to accept or reject nurse leadership roles. Because half of the current nurse leaders in the United States were expected to retire by the end of the decade, Generation Y nurses were expected to take on these leadership roles. Critical to the future of nursing and to respond to the problem of nursing shortages was to understand how to effectively recruit, motivate, and retain Generation Y nurse leaders, which represented the problems associated with the leadership succession crisis. Included in this goal was to understand what factors could make present nurses reject or consider these leadership roles. Through a quantitative study that made use of a Consensus process approach, Sherman et al. (2015) gathered data from 32 Generation Y registered nurses during 2013 and 2014. With focus groups, the cited researchers found that Generation Y nurses would consider leadership roles if they believed these positions would lead them to create meaningful changes in the field. However, fear of failing and the possibility of losing work-life balance represented the two most cited reasons why they would reject becoming nurse leaders. The findings remained important for the current research because these demonstrated that Generation Y individuals had their own unique criteria of deciding whether or not to become leaders. Moreover, the findings shed light on the possible barriers that this generation faced as they strove to acquire leadership roles, including the idea of having work-life imbalance and facing the possibility of being criticized. Those behind succession planning programs should take these into account (Sherman et al, 2015). As the Baby Boomer generation approached retirement at a faster rate, the mantle of leadership would likely be passed to the next generations, particularly the Millennials in less than a decade (Kralj & Kandampully, 2012).
This section on generationally diverse workplaces showed how timely it was to understand how Generation Y employees were when they were in the workplace and how current managers could engage with them and hone them to be future leaders. The next section included a discussion of what made the millennial generation unique in the workplace.
Millennials in the Workplace
One of the crucial concerns over debates and studies on generations and generationally diverse workplaces involved concerns over generational differences, which could be considered a form of stereotyping. While it remained true that any study that involved comparing human groups, each with their defining characteristics, could be considered stereotyping, the same could not be fully criticized over concerns of generational differences (Campbell et al, 2015). Even though variances within generations existed, the descriptions of differences were usually not ill informed and negative. As such, organizations and leaders concerned with generationally diverse workplaces could not be considered mainly an act of stereotyping (Zell, Kristan, & Teeter, 2015). Although there were criticisms that the millennial generation is not unique even if they were usually criticized by the older generations, some studies formed their descriptions of Millennials from the perceptions of the Millennials themselves (Campbell et al, 2015). This section would reveal these unique millennial characteristics.
Personality in the workplace. One unique personality that Millennials were said to demonstrate consisted of the generation having high levels of self-entitlement (Akhras, 2015; Alexander & Sysko, 2013; Guillot-Soulez & Soulez, 2014; Laird, Harvey, & Lancaster, 2015; Krahn & Galambos, 2014). Millennials did not want to be micromanaged (Campione, 2014, Huyler, Pierre, Ding, & Norelus, 2015; Kilber, Barclay, & Ohmer, 2014; Krahn & Galambos, 2014). Jacobs (2013) claimed that the sense of entitlement, which represented the idea that one deserved positive things by virtue of who they were instead of working for them, might have increased among the millennial generation. Jacobs (2013) explained that this might be because of their upbringing. According to Jacobs (2013), because Millennials were raised in times of societal instability and disconnection, such as having more unmarried or divorced parents, they were likely to prioritize materialistic values. Moreover, because Millennials were raised in an economy oriented toward advertising messages, they could easily attract materialistic aims (Jacobs, 2013). This sense of entitlement led to stereotypes that they were difficult to manage in the workplace (Thompson & Gregory, 2012). Thompson and Gregory (2012) claimed that managers should not focus on these stereotypes. Instead, they should adapt new ways of managing and training the new generation. Alexander and Sysko (2013) explored the cognitive determinants behind the entitlement mindset of Millennials, as well as the resulting affective and behavioral attitudinal components of this mindset. Through a review of relevant literature and focus groups, the researchers found that economic factors, as well as technological advancements, along with having parents who were very supportive of their success and would do anything for them to reach success, all contributed to the mentality of Millennials that they could do everything they wanted. As a result of this mindset, Millennials could be selfish, impatient, narcissistic, and hedonistic. Their work values might also be considered in a negative light because most were willing to work hard with the intention of receiving immediate rewards and praise. However, despite these negative characteristics, Millennials were also found to be confident, great team workers, and achievement-oriented, which could lead to positive results for the organizations they work for.
Another study that showed Millennials had self-entitlement tendencies was conducted by Krahn and Galambos (2014), who evaluated the differences between Generation Y and Generation X when it came to their perceptions of intrinsic and extrinsic work values. Krahn and Galambos (2014) also demonstrated that the 1996 cohort emphasized the value of extrinsic work rewards and had higher levels of job entitlement beliefs. Extrinsic work values increased only among the 1996 adulthood as they reached early adulthood; however, intrinsic motivational values increased for both generations during early adulthood. Job entitlement beliefs lessened on average for both generations, but less so in the 1996 cohort. Entitlement beliefs lessened more among women. They also found that, regardless of generation, a personâs work values at age 18 could predict work values when they reached mid-20s. In general, the findings supported what other literature found, that most Millennials felt a greater sense of entitlement and valued extrinsic rewards. The study remained important to include in the current literature to provide support to the unique characteristics of the millennial generation employees.
Other studies supported that Millennials needed to be recognized and rewarded (Alexander & Sysko, 2013; Barkhuizen, 2014; Hollet-Haudebert, & Mulki, 2015; Mishra & Mishra, 2014). Millennials needed work-life balance (Gardiner, Grace, & King, 2015; Gilley, Waddell, Hall, Jackson, & Gilley, 2015; Kultalahti & Vijtala, 2015; Kultalahti & Liisa Viitala, 2014; Sherman, et al., 2015).
Kultalahti and Viitala (2015) evaluated the elements critical to the psychological contracts of working Millennials by gathering empirical data from Facebook. A sample of working Millennials were asked to share their experiences through empathy-based stories. Findings revealed that, like what other studies found, factors important to the psychological contracts of Millennials involved constant learning and developing at the workplace. Millennials worked better if they felt engaged in interesting and challenging tasks. At the same time, they thrived in an environment where they felt supported by their supervisors and had good social relations with their colleagues. Millennials also needed reciprocal flexibility concerning timetables and reasonable working hours, helping them achieve a good work-life balance. However, unlike previous studies, external motivations, such as monetary rewards and long-term contracts, were not found to be important factors for the Millennials. The results of the study showed that Millennials had unique characteristics compared to previous generations, challenging human resource professionals to develop practices and programs that would retain them and prepare them for leadership roles.
Learning and working styles. Compared to previous generations, the Millennials also had different work values. Millennials were considered the most technology-savvy among the generations (Baharum & Jaafar, 2014; Eastman, Iyer, Liao-Troth, Williams, & Griffin, 2014; Maxwell & Broadbridge). This expertise made them learn tasks and work differently from previous generations. Roberts, Newman, and Schwartzstein (2012) evaluated what the best approach to facilitate the learning of the millennial generation. Unique to this generation was that they had deep understanding of technology and social media. Unlike previous generations, they had high appreciation for high technological tools and the idea of social connectedness. As such, how they learned could also be shaped by this technological prowess. The cited researchers made use of available literature and their own experiences with millennial learners in medical training to gather data. Their research led them to develop 12 tips that could enhance the learning of Millennials. The first tip consisted of understanding generational differences and what made Millennials unique from the Baby Boomers and Generation X. The second tip involved recognizing the environmental and cultural forces that could shape the learning experiences of the Millennials. A common characteristic of Millennials involved how they were driven by self-interest. However, the next tip consisted of how they should still be given guidance and direction, even if they worked well independently. The last tips involved mentors knowing their own materials and their roles, so that Millennials could respect them, recognizing the value of Millennials, and using more technologies to facilitate the learning experience of the Millennials. Millennials should also be made to feel that they would have support when necessary. The cited researchers also found that to facilitate the learning of Millennials, they should be allowed to work in teams and collaborate; this was because they were more comfortable in such settings. Furthermore, they should be allowed to think creatively.
Kuron, Lyons, Schweitzer, and Ng (2015) evaluated whether work values of Millennials were likely to change as they reached various stages of their lives, including different career stages. Gathering data from 906 Canadian Millennials, Kuron et al. (2015) found that, before Millennials started to work, they were keen on having these five work values: interesting job, achievement, friendly co-workers, meaningful work that could help people, and high salary. The same values stayed even as they worked, showing that Millennials work values remained relatively consistent, as they grew more mature in their respective careers. The study remained
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