The New Pragmatism: Seven Things You Must Understand About Millennials

“When we decided not to sell our business, people called us a lot of things besides crazy—things like arrogant and entitled. The same words that I’ve heard used to describe our generation time and time again. The Millennial Generation. The ‘Me’ Generation. Well, it’s true. We do have a sense of entitlement, a sense of ownership, because, after all, this is the world we were born into, and we are responsible for it.” – Evan Spiegel, co-founder and CEO of Snapchat.

As many business leaders will happily tell you, workers of the Millennial Generation are lazy, spoiled brats, with an overblown sense of entitlement that will surely be the ruin of us all. But as I recall, elders have laid the same charges against youth for millennia, generation after generation. Funny how civilization remains intact.

With three of them as my children, I can tell you this: Millennials are sick of Boomers and Gen-Xers labeling them slackers just because they do things differently. Some of the most successful Millennials, like Snapchat’s Spiegel, have begun fighting back, pointing out their worth in the marketplace—the old ways don’t always work anymore. In the recent past, corporations fought the paradigm shift using technological leverage to squeeze more productivity from fewer people; and during the bad old days of the Great Recession, those desperate to keep their jobs had to grin and bear it.

But nearly ten years down the road, how do you keep your best and brightest down on the farm, when cheap high-tech and universal connectivity lets them work independently, free of stifling tradition? Whether you’re their leader or teammate, understand these things about the Millennials you work with:

  1. They’re here to stay. Born between 1980 and 2000, Millennials will soon be the largest generational group in America—and 75% of the workforce by 2025. Some people call them “Generation Y,” but a better name might be “Generation Why?” as they challenge so many existing models of business and the workplace in general.

  2. They’ve been traumatized by their parents’ bad experiences. Many Millennials have seen their parents “rightsized” out of jobs they faithfully worked for years, even decades. With at-will employment, some got no severance pay beyond the embarrassing short-term tithe of unemployment. When such circumstances strain your family up to and beyond the breaking point, you become very leery about employers taking advantage of you, hesitant to engage without making provisions for personal survival. Hence their desire to climb the corporate ladder as fast as possible, a willingness to jump ship for better pay and benefits, and demands for assurances in writing. They’ve seen the old social contract between worker and employer fall apart. However:

  3. They do care, and want you to care too. Millennials are willing to bust their humps for quality work and causes they believe in, especially for people they respect. Show them their efforts make a difference, and that you appreciate them. Demonstrate how they fit into the team structure, provide genuine reasons for them to engage, and they’ll run with the ball. Command-and-control approaches and “my way or the highway” don’t resonate with them.

  4. They’re hugely creative. They grew up using computers, learning to program and create their own apps, and shepherded the smartphone revolution. They have an almost inbred understanding of how to create amazing new things by playing around with it. The software industry realized this and took advantage of it years ago.

  5. They get bored easily. Like all creatives, Millennials relish new challenges to help them move their jobs and careers forward. They like stimulating work, and plenty of it. Most have no problem reframing challenges as opportunities given half a chance.

  6. They roll with the punches. Millennials have seen things change so much, so fast, that they adapt easily. They’re early adopters of new tech, are highly plugged-in, dive right into new programs, learn them on the fly, and enjoy online training. They can work from anywhere—even other countries and cities—and they know it.

  7. They understand technology. Because of their tech-savvy, creative mindset, Millennials provide a ready source of information about new technology; and being early adopters, may already have learned some of the new tech you’re thinking of trying. If you adopt the tech, let them train others in its use.

Believe in Them!

Despite the hype, Millennials can make great team members if you understand what makes them tick. New technology and social change have made them want to achieve success faster than older generations, preferably on their own terms; and yes, this can require patience as they move through your structures. But as a rule, they’re willing to work hard and engage in their jobs if you extend your trust and understanding.

About Laura Stack, your next keynote speaker:

Laura Stack, MBA, CSP, CPAE is an award-winning keynote speaker, bestselling author, and noted authority on productivity and performance. Funny, engaging, and full of real life strategies that work, Laura will change mindsets and attitudes so your people can maximize productivity, strengthen performance, and get the job done right. Her presentations at corporate events, sales kick-off meetings, and association conferences help audiences improve output, increase speed in execution, and save time in the office. Stack has authored seven books, including her newest work, Doing the Right Things Right: How the Effective Executive Spends Time (Jan. 2016). To have Laura Stack speak at your next event, call 303-471-7401, email, or CONTACT US.

Here’s what others are saying:

“Laura Stack’s session with a group of our seasoned operations managers was eye-opening. We all learned new ways to be more productive with the tools we already have. I’ve never seen each of our seasoned, experienced operations managers so engaged in a session. Many of our senior and mid-level leaders were wowed by what they learned and have already begun using the new techniques with their teams.”
—Mary Pawlowski, Learning Design, Piedmont Natural Gas

“What I enjoyed most about your presentation was that it was not only engaging but also practical in application. I’ve read everything from Covey’s system to “Getting Things Done,” and you presented time management in a way that is the easiest I’ve seen to digest and apply. Thank you for helping our system today!”
—John-Reed McDonald, SVP, Field Operations, Pridestaff

“Laura is an incredible speaker who takes practical information to improve productivity and efficiency and makes it interesting and fun! She has a great sense of humor and completely engaged our corporate and sales team. Laura motivated everyone to take steps to make their lives more productive and efficient.
—Molly Johnson, Vice President Domestic Sales, Episciences, Inc.

“Ms. Laura Stack’s program received the highest scores in the 13-year history of the Institute for Management Studies (IMS) in Cleveland! From the 83 participants, the workshop received a perfect 7.0 for “Effectiveness of the Speaker” and 6.8 for “Value of the Content.” Managers especially valued learning about task management, how to minimize interruptions, organizing with Outlook, prioritizing, effectively saying ‘no,’ how to set boundaries, and recognizing self-imposed challenges to time management.”
—Don Gorning, Chair, Institute for Management Studies Cleveland