I’m sure we’ve all heard it: Millennials are lazy. They don’t work hard and they expect to be handed everything, whether it’s in their careers or otherwise. We enter the workforce expecting our employers to give us too much: higher salaries, bigger titles, more exposure.

But, as a Millennial myself, here’s what I don’t understand: as a collective group, we’re none of those things. Sure, there are deadbeats and outliers. Every generation has them. But the Millennials I know are hard-working, intelligent people who know their worth and want to get the same amount out of the system as they put into it. The Millennials I know get to work early and stay after everyone else has left the office for the day. They run entire functions and departments with fewer resources and manpower than their predecessors were afforded. They’re over-stressed and under-caffeinated. They’re philanthropists and give back to their communities when they’re not working those long hours.

Compensation Needs

Still, we’re the proverbial “kids these days” who want too much, despite working internships that paid us little to nothing, only to enter the workforce with student debt as the economy took a nosedive. We settled on things we thought were non-negotiable to get our foot in the door, and now many of us can’t quite seem to get what we truly deserve; from the little things, like more vacation time and larger workspaces to bigger things like the titles and salaries we should have been given in the first place.

Multiple people in their 60s have told me about how they only made $16,000 in their first job out of college, and can’t understand why $40,000 isn’t good enough for those who are entering the workforce today. The problem with the logic there, is that $16,000 in January 1975 is equivalent to over $77,300 in January 2019, according to the U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics. That’s quite a discrepancy, if you ask me.

A few years ago, a dear friend of mine interviewed for a manager position at a well-known tech company in a major city. After doing extensive research on the market value of the position as it related to her qualifications, she was confident in giving a desired salary estimate to the interviewer when asked. She was surprised when the interviewer balked at the number. “That number is almost 40% more than your current salary! You should be looking for something closer to 20% instead.” My friend later remarked to me how unsettled she was by the whole experience, and how her previous role and the amount she earned shouldn’t have any effect on her compensation within a new position at a new company. She decided not to pursue that role after that interview.

Employee Priorities Have Shifted

I encourage you to read Mark Lurie’s article on The Ladders regarding generational differences, but here’s the gist of understanding the disconnect between generations: expectations have remained the same, while the environment has changed. In his article, Lurie points out that Baby Boomers were expected to be rewarded with a hefty pension and 401(k) after putting in time at their respective organizations. They expect Millennials to have this same mindset, despite the fact that many benefits are no longer offered – which is why they’re often upset when Millennials leave their roles after just a few years.

Instead of waiting for pension benefits to kick in, Millennials are looking for on-the-job training, leadership development, and ways to prepare ourselves to take on more responsibility in the near term. We’re tapping into industry associations (I personally just joined the International Association of Business Communicators) and hoping our organizations will invest in our development.

In his article, Lurie goes on to encourage open dialogue between managers and employees to identify what employees are looking to get out of an organization, and what they can give in return. Some questions include:

  • What does the employee want from us?
  • What are we providing the employee in exchange?
  • What does the employee want in the long term? The short-term?
  • What do they want from their career?
  • What kinds of goals do they have outside of work?


Once we put our differences aside, in favor of truly understanding one another (yes, the same goes for how Millennials can better understand Baby Boomers!) we can make strides in developing a sustainable corporate culture.