A Gen-Xer's Rant: What's Wrong with My Millennial Employees?
I never imagined that the toughest problem I would have in running a multi-million dollar business would not be getting off the ground, staying afloat, or growing at a rapid pace. While all huge challenges, they're a walk in the park compared to the biggest obstacle I've dealt with in five and a half years of business: recruiting a group of loyal, competent young employees under 30 years old.
I'd like to think my problem isn't just that I'm an old fart. I own a luxury swimwear ecommerce platform (and most recently, a brick-and-mortar location in Miami Beach as well) with my husband. We're thirty-two-year-old owners with a startup mentality. We like to think we care deeply about our culture, frequently discussing our values and hosting regular company Happy Hours. I like to think that though always busy, we're a very engaging and passionate company with a slew of opportunities for growth. When I was 23, I used to dream about being part of a company that cared about what I thought, that saw my true potential and gave me challenging responsibilities. Turns out, our millennial staffers don't really see it that way--and, while I know that I can't generalize my experience to a whole generation, I also doubt that my young employees are unique.
Here's my list of grievances:
I have yet to give a millennial a leadership position and have them accept their new role with humility. Once you give them a fancy title like Assistant Buyer or Marketing Specialist they automatically seem to think they're God's gift to you, your clients, and your other employees. They're not afraid to speak to others in a condescending manner or even to talk back to you. They nonchalantly move through life doing things I wouldn't have dreamt of doing to any of my superiors, let alone the owner of my company, when I was their age.
They take things for granted.
Millenials seem to think they have a ton of options. Even in a recession-hobbled economy, with very few challenging entry level job openings and even fewer in the fashion industry, 20-somethings seem to think their options are endless. That makes them less aware of how grateful they should be for the things they have, especially the unique opportunity to get paid to learn the ins and outs of a luxury-industry start-up. Recent graduates (regardless of where they went to school) from time immemorial have been asked to make copies and bring people coffee. Millennials, on the other hand, seem to think someone should have rolled out the red carpet when they popped out of school.
They think they're exempt from rules
I don't remember the last time I told a new employee something that he or she followed verbatim the first time. In the beginning, before they understand implicitly that carelessness is not a value we favor, almost all millennials demonstrate they don't care what the consequences of their actions will be. These are all activities they seem to think are normal: sending emails to clients with blatant grammatical mistakes, knowingly telling customers incorrect information (because they think that's a better answer), and ignoring an inquiry from their boss.
They don't follow through
If they end the day without finishing a task, they'll come in the next morning and forget they needed to finish it. I see myself explaining over and over the term "follow-through," as if it were some complex mathematical equation that only rocket scientists could grasp. Our normal expectation for an adult over 21 is that they are able to take care of tasks with little supervision without having to be reminded. But that's not the case, with even our most responsible millennials.
They don't want to pay their dues
It's the Culture of Now for them, and frankly, this makes our fairly minor age difference seem like the gap of a century. When I graduated from college, my peers and I were fully aware that our first year or two in the workforce would be spent in dull jobs, because you have to start from the bottom and work your way up. That mentality got me where I am today. Too many of my young staffers seem to think they're entitled to a high salary and the most glamorous tasks when they have no experience or proven track record.
Do you have this problem? I feel like breaking open the anti-suicide windows of my 21st floor office and shouting, "calling all smart, stable, and humble fashion-oriented people, can you please show up to work today? On time?"