At Work & Theology 101

Five Myths About the Millennial Worker

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Millennials are rising from their futons, emerging from their parents’ basements, and stepping out of their dorms into a brave new world of employment and one of the most challenging economies in modern history. As a new generation is now entering the workforce, how should Christian employers prepare to hire employees that look and act like their own kids?

Today’s workplace looks much different than the workplace of 15 years ago. With the average age of retirement at 67, people are working longer. Now we have three or more generations working together simultaneously – each with their own values, communication styles, and definitions of success.

As the second largest generation in history takes their place in the cubicle, there is a growing need to understand the way they operate in the workplace.

Here are the top five myths about millennials and what you can do as a Christian employer to transform this challenge into an opportunity.

Myth #1: Millennials are Entitled

“And let us consider how we may spur one another on toward love and good deeds. Let us…encourage one another…” – Hebrews 10:24-25 

The parents of millennials told them they can do and be anything. Many of them will volunteer to take on tasks beyond their experience because no one ever told them they can’t.

Harness their spirit and use their optimism to infuse your team with fresh perspective and a renewed commitment to find innovative solutions. Practice servant leadership and patience with a generation eager to prove themselves as the world changers they believe they are. Encourage employees to discover their calling and empower them to apply their passions and talents at work. One great resource on calling you can pass on to them is IFWE’s upcoming webinar, “What Is My Calling?“, with Dr. Art Lindsley.

Myth#2: Millennials Just Don’t Care

“Don’t let anyone look down on you because you are young, but set an example for the believers in speech, in life, in love, in faith and in purity.” – 1 Timothy 4:12

Perception of young people today is that they are uninformed and unengaged. But what may be perceived as apathy may in fact be ignorance.

Millennials look for the big picture and like to know that what they are working on, no matter how menial, makes a difference on the larger scale. Explain why the project is important and what they can uniquely do to help the company succeed.

Myth #3: Millennials are Addicted to Technology

“How good and pleasant it is when brothers dwell in unity!” – Psalm 133:1

Social networking may be second nature to millennials, but it isn’t all fun and games. Millennials use networking sites for instant data sharing, cross-cultural collaboration, and keeping up on current events.

Celebrate their affinity for communication and encourage younger employees to think of new ways to use technology to meet the needs of your company, expand your client base, and spread your message. Also, provide opportunities for employees to escape from behind their computers and build relationships in person.

Myth #4: Millennials Know It All (or Think They Do)

“Plans fail for lack of counsel, but with many advisers they succeed.” – Proverbs 15:22 

As they enter their twenties, millennials are starting to admit that maybe Mom and Dad were right. In fact, opportunities to learn from their elders are consistently rated amongst top workplace characteristics for young people today.  Develop a formal mentoring program where more seasoned staff can pass on their institutional wisdom to new hires.

Myth #5: Millennials Just Want A Job

“How much better to get wisdom than gold, to choose understanding rather than silver!” – Proverbs 16:16

Employment is a blessing, particularly in this economy. However, millennials want more than a job. They want to make a difference both at work and in the world. Studies show that perceived contribution to the company is the major motivator for millennials on the job. Incentives to work harder may not be a bigger paycheck, but may be a day off to volunteer at their favorite non-profit or asking them to spearhead a recycling program in the business park.

God built society on multi-generational collaboration. In the Old Testament, he identifies himself as the God of Abraham, Isaac and Jacob. Psalm 145:5 states:

One generation shall commend your works to another, and shall declare your mighty acts.

The Bible gives a host of examples of multiple generations working together: Joshua and Moses, Esther and Mordecai, Paul and Timothy. Christian employers today have a unique opportunity to build a work environment that highlights the unique contributions of each generation and provide opportunities for every member of their team to be empowered to live out their purpose on the job.

We are all made unique, with distinct interests and talents, both individually and generationally. This is key for the long-term flourishing of our society. The modern workplace is now just one more venue for Christians of every age to collaborate and encourage one another in their good works.

What is your experience working with Millennials? Leave your comments here

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  • Erika

    Your article reads more of how we would like these young workers to be! I am 53, the last “job” I had I worked with mostly younger people. I might add that I was the top employee in the company, surpassing production 3 fold compared to younger staff. The majority did not want to work, they wanted to play on their phone constantly (although company policy clearly stated No cell phones or electronics of any kind), they wanted to sit and talk about anything but work, they had terrible language issues, they dressed as if going to the beach, they gossiped, invented, and exaggerated everything that was not their business. They went to extreme lengths to get out of working. I found them to be extremely uninformed, ignorant of any past present or future issues humanity might be facing. Totally unconcerned about anything but their friends, and their phone. Unable to take direction, criticism or truth of any kind for what it is, a lot of extremely weak cry babies. I wished and prayed for 4 years, I would find the way to quit or I would get fired. Lord, of course, heard my prayers and sent me a miracle! The only point I agree with is that yes, this company was in desperate need of a wiser leader, who would be able to guide, lead and unite these younger people into producing what they were getting paid to produce, the company did not seem to understand this concept and had very young people in supervisory positions. Thank you Lord Jesus Christ for your blessings, small medium and large!

  • GabrielleJ

    Thank you for your perspective Erika! I think you are not alone in your frustration with Millennials at work. Millennials (like all of us) like to feel needed and will adjust behavior to the expectation level set for them. Without knowing your situation, I would try engaging with younger generation employees in a way that lets them see their unique contribution to the company. Giving them meaningful projects will fill their time and challenge their skills. Working cross-generationally is a challenge for all of us- one which requires grace and patience, and sometimes a sense of humor.

    • sent by Jesus

      wow, this article is written with such lack of understanding of what technology is doing to society – how it is detaching us from God and making us more self-centered. here’s the truth about millenials: most likely of any previous generation to take anti-psychotic medications and be diagnosed with “mental illness.” is this what God wants? no, absolutely not.

      the millenials are generally addicted to technology as an attempt to compensate for the lack of true Godly discipleship available to them.

  • Em

    Even non-Christians would be a lot humbler and kind. I’m a millenial who works like crazy 50+ hours a week getting the same entry level pay as people received a decade ago, even though I have five years of career-relevant work experience. I do it for the passion of making a difference. I have no hope of getting out of student loan debt, affording a house, a car, or children. I’ve been poor, over-worked, and underpaid ever since I graduated. You’re lucky you have time to go to church! Go find some other millenials and quit being jealous of the young.

  • GabrielleJ

    Em, I can definitely relate as I recently graduated from
    graduate school and am feeling the pressure of repaying student loans. As
    Millennials I think it is easy for us to take a short-term versus long-term
    approach to our careers. We are not put on this earth to “climb the corporate
    ladder” and our value to God is not determined by what we produce. However
    there is something to be said about the character, patience and yes even long
    suffering that we develop as we grow into our different jobs.

  • LindaMorrell

    50+ hours a week…wooowooo. Geeeez Em, what do you do, if I may ask? Obviously you’re not managing or supervising, because if you were, you’d be working over 80+ hours a week. H’mmmm. You’re going to have to work a lot harder if you want to pay off that school loan. Try 80-90 hours a week and you might just make it….like I did. I could never had paid it off working 50 hours a week. Sacrifice….suffer…..geeeeez.

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