Quick Study

By Brian Robinson

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Managers beware: The millennial workforce under the microscope

A lot has been written over the past couple of years about what the effect of the influx of millennials will have in government, mostly anecdotal stuff. You can infer from this that newer workers have a different way of working from their baby-boomer bosses, and that’s particularly true in the way they use technology.

It’s an area ripe for actual research and, behold, it’s started to arrive. One article in the Journal of Management (this is a limited time download) takes a multidecade look at the generations and comes up with striking differences between them, and it’s not just about how they handle Web 2.0 and digital tech.

One of the biggest gaps, for instance, is how boomers and the “Generation Me” folks look at leisure. The habits of the notoriously overworking, overachieving boomers don’t cut it with the newer folks, who, the study says, really value their leisure. The way the paper’s authors puts it, this sounds like a negative:

“However, given that GenMe values extrinsic rewards more than boomers did, the combination of not wanting to work hard but still wanting more money and status verifies the sense of entitlement many have identified among GenMe. ... Valuing leisure (e.g. not wanting to work overtime) while still expecting more status and compensation demonstrates a similar disconnect between expectations and reality ... narcissistic traits have risen over the generations, and narcissism is strongly linked to overconfidence and unrealistic risk taking.”

It’s just one paper, of course, but if other research that follows backs this up it suggests government managers – who are still mostly boomers – should consider much more drastic changes in the way they deal with the incoming workforce. And that government may have to change a lot in the way it operates in the future.

Posted on Mar 10, 2010 at 12:19 PM


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