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Don't Like the Millennials? Get Over It

Eddie Murphy had this classic bit back in the day about the various forms of venereal disease. In it, he walked the audience through the different types, and how he would feel were he to contract them. Herpes, he said, was the only one he was truly afraid of, because it was impossible to get rid of. Punchline: “You keep that s**t like luggage.”

Sort of like millennials. They are here, they can be wildly annoying, and they aren’t going anywhere for the rest of our lives.

I’ve employed them. I’ve supervised them. I’ve even fathered them. And to date I’ve been really good at playing along with MY generation’s generally cockeyed disdain for them. But frankly, the disdain is getting old. We think they’re lazy and entitled, they think we’re Cavepeople, and so on…

The mutual disdain isn’t only bad for society, it’s potentially disastrous in the workplace. Only by opening our minds and working with millennials will a more harmonious, multigenerational and productive workplace be established and maintained. Let’s face it, in a few short years the majority of the workforce will be made up of those born after 1985.

Luggage, you guys.

I suggest it’s time to knock it off and learn to live together and (gasp!) learn from each other. Having established complete dominance over our digital world, millennials are quickly taking over the workforce itself, so we kind of have no choice.

I’m really just beginning to come around on this, so forgive me if my thoughts aren’t entirely developed. But someone has to accelerate this conversation, and I have some time on my hands.

So, let’s start simply with three of the most important needs millennials express in the workforce, which tend to make X’ers and those above recoil. Basics that should be considered if companies expect to increase millennial engagement and better recognize the value they can add as colleagues and future leaders, not simply employees.

Flexibility

A decade ago, I had over 80 ties and about 8 suits. I suited up in this stylish yet horribly uncomfortable get-up pretty much every day for nearly 20 years until I just got fed up. Today, I have one suit and three ties (which I have vowed to never wear again under any circumstances). I dress for comfort, not for show. And I find myself happier, feeling more stylish and confident, and as a result more productive. All this freedom brought to me by? You guessed it: millennials!

Millennials have (correctly) reimagined the workforce as a place where not everyone is the most productive within the typical 9-to-5 work day.  Their desire for flexibility and working remotely reminds companies that technology has allowed the workforce to rapidly evolve into one that no longer requires an employee to be chained to a computer (in a tie) in an office building. This is good! This is healthy! Why do we fight this?