Workers of all ages today rely every day on their immediate managers for help meeting their basic needs and expectations and dealing with a whole range of day-to-day issues that arise at work.
Workers of all ages today are more likely to disagree – often privately and sometimes openly – with their employers’ stated missions, policies, and decisions.
Workers of all ages are more likely to question or challenge employers’ rules, managers’ instructions, employment conditions, and established rewards structures. The free-agent mindset is now the prevailing workforce mindset.
Employees of all ages today are much less likely to believe employers’ promises about long-term rewards. While many employees may doubt the sincerity of long-term promises, that is not the biggest problem. Many more employees worry that their prospects for receiving long-term rewards are vulnerable to a whole range of external and internal forces that might shorten the natural life of the organization employing them. Workers worry openly about events or circumstances that have little or nothing to do with business, such as politics, diplomacy, war, terrorism, and natural disasters. They worry about broad business-climate factors, including monetary policy, global market shifts, changes in particular industries, and organizational changes. As well, they are acutely aware that the organization employing them might simply lose out in the fiercely competitive marketplace. Workers also worry about the continued employment of their immediate supervisors and other leaders who know them best.
Without credible long-term promises from employers, employees of all generations no longer labor quietly and obediently. Rather, most employees work anxiously to take care of themselves and their families and try to get what they can from their employers – one day at a time. People of all ages and at all levels realize nowadays that they are “free agents” because they have no other choice.
Most workers today – regardless of generation – assume that most employment relationships will be relatively short-term and transactional. In relative terms, older workers tend to lose and younger workers tend to gain – at least in the short term – from the diminishing importance of seniority and longevity of employment.
In every industry, in nearly every organization, individuals are working harder and facing increasing pressure to work longer, smarter, faster, and better. Meanwhile, workers must routinely learn and utilize new technologies, processes, practices, skills and knowledge, all the while adjusting to ongoing organizational changes which cause growing fear of imminent job loss. While younger workers may have certain advantages in this environment, they tend to suffer more than older workers when they receive less management guidance and support.
As the pressure increases, so does the need for some relief from the pressure. That’s why “work-life balance” is such a powerful counter-trend. What work-life balance means most of the time is “more control over my own schedule.” The rest of the time it means “flexible location” or “flexible dress” or “flexible something.” Sometimes it means an employee can bring his dog to work. People of all ages want greater flexibility in their work conditions. The biggest difference with Millennials is that they are more comfortable making specific requests for immediate (rather than long-term) increases in pay, benefits, and work conditions and they are more likely to make those requests earlier in their tenure of employment than workers of previous generations would have.