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If you are a Millennial, you’re probably already well aware that you’re fighting an uphill battle in the average workplace. Millennials have been given a lot of flak for being lazy, self-absorbed, and disloyal. Journalists love writing articles about Millennials that cast the entire generation in a poor light. While the criticisms may be true in some cases, they are absolutely NOT true in many others.

(I’ve written a couple blog posts about the fallacy that Millennials are bad employees. Check out Millennials and Loyalty and Millennials and Altruism).

Unfortunately, many people have bought into the racket and are overly cautious about their Millennial co-workers. So, how do you cut through the distrust and prove that you are, in fact, loyal and you DO want to work hard?

Try the following 5 strategies:

1. Demonstrate Your Respect

I’m sure you have tons of brilliant ideas that you’d like to implement RIGHT AWAY, but hold your horses. If you’re starting out in a new job, take your time to get to know your co-workers, get a feel for the environment, and understand protocol. Be sure to respect the ideas and practices of those who have been in the organization for longer than you have, even if you don’t necessarily agree with their methods. A little respect can go a long way.

When you do feel you need to speak up and offer an alternative opinion, do so in a courteous manner. Acknowledge the commonalities between you and the other person or people with whom you disagree, and THEN offer your alternative or dissenting opinion. Remember: your tone of voice and mannerisms can also speak volumes. Pay attention to your body language and be as polite as possible.

2. Surpass Expectations

If you’re looking for respect from your co-workers, then make sure you’re not only turning in your assignments on time and being as punctual as possible, but also make an effort to go the extra mile. Do a little extra research for that report. Help out a struggling co-worker. Turn in a project a day early.

You don’t always have to surpass expectations (and probably shouldn’t), but it doesn’t hurt to make an effort to shine from time to time. Just make sure you’re not rubbing your excellence in others’ noses!

3. Think AND Talk About the Future

What’s your five-year plan at your company? What are your goals? Think about your personal expectations for your future self (if you’d like some help with goal setting, check out this past blog post), and commit to them.

Don’t be afraid to let others in on your goals, especially your immediate supervisor or mentor. How do you talk about your goals with others? Try framing them in the form of a question. For instance:

“I’m determined to do XYZ this year, but I’m not sure about [a certain aspect of reaching that goal]. What are your thoughts?”

OR: “I’d really like to [become a project lead, take on X responsibility, earn a promotion to X position]. How were you able to do this? Any tips for me?”

4. Be Humble

You don’t know everything. Not only that, there are things you don’t even know that you don’t know! With that in mind, be open to learning and trying new things. Listen. Pay attention. Learn.

5. When Things Aren’t Ideal, Communicate

Instead of thinking about leaving as soon as things get tough or the job doesn’t seem to suit you anymore, communicate. Approach your supervisor, let her know about your discontentment, and strategize ways to overcome your slump (better yet, strategize ahead of time, and let her know your ideas in addition to a collaborative brainstorm).

Believe me, everyone has slumps. It’s possible you’ve mastered your work and are now bored, or you might feel ill-suited to the work you are doing (in both cases, a change in responsibilities might help you re-engage). It’s also possible you’ve become unhappy with the work climate and don’t care for certain co-workers or certain office practices. That is a larger problem, but can also be surmountable in some cases (it might just mean talking to certain co-workers and strategizing on how to better work together).

Direct communication is key. The last thing you want to do is mope around for a month, make everyone around you unhappy, and then quit. That doesn’t do ANYONE any good! Talking out your discontentment (in a respectful, matter-of-fact way), and strategizing solutions is a much more proactive approach.


How will you prove yourself in a workplace that is determined to write you off? Start with these 5 strategies, give them an earnest try, and be patient–others’ attitudes toward you may not change overnight. Remember: if you find the workplace to be overwhelmingly toxic, there’s no shame in moving on. Just make sure to give this decision plenty of thought and consider talking with a career coach before you make your move.



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Next week, I am going to address how Millennials can demonstrate their loyalty and prove themselves to their company. To lead up to that topic, I wanted to revisit a past blog post from  a couple years ago about how Millennials are perceived in the workplace. Thanks for reading and, as always, thank you for your feedback!

Young businessman in office looking at camera.

Let’s talk about a touchy subject: Millennials and loyalty. At first glance, the Millennial generation seems to be comprised of disloyal job-hoppers. Statistics show (according to Multiple Generations @ Work”) that a staggering 91% of Millennials expect to stay in a job for less than three years. Such high turnover can be tough for companies and cripplingly expensive. In fact, close to 90% of the firms surveyed (according to an article from reported that the cost of replacing a Millennial employee was anywhere from $15,000 to $25,000.

These numbers seem overwhelmingly negative, but let’s take a step back and look at Millennials and loyalty from a larger scope.

First of all, consider the context. Millennials have entered the workforce during one of the worst economic periods in history. Companies are downsizing, outsourcing, and slashing salaries in an attempt to stay afloat. And even though cost-of-living and college tuition are increasing dramatically, paychecks are not. Says Rich Milgram,‘s founder and chief executive, “Younger job seekers don’t have it easy in the current economy and they’ve been put in a hole by the generations that have gone before them.” Oftentimes, Millennials practice strategic job-hopping because they know they could be let go at any time. It’s a defensive move and gives them a sense of security if they feel their current position is in danger of being snipped.

Secondly, Millennials’ definition of loyalty is often different from other generations. Consider this statistic for a moment from

More than eight in ten young workers (Millennials, aged 19-26) say they are loyal to their employers. But only one in 100 human resource professionals believe that these young workers are loyal.

Why the huge difference in perspectives? Many believe it has to do with the way Millennials think about loyalty. Many members of this generation do not necessarily pledge themselves to a company, but to a boss or co-workers. Cam Marston, author of “Motivating the ‘What’s In It For Me’ Workforce” says, “Effective bosses are the number one reason why Millennials stay at a job…They have great respect for leaders and loyalty, but they don’t respect authority ‘just because.’ This is why it’s so important to have exceptional leaders at companies to retain these younger workers. They don’t want someone who micromanages and thinks of them as just another worker. They want someone who inspires them to stay at a company.”

Another attribute that keeps Millennials loyal? Workplace atmosphere. A 2012 survey by Net Impact found that 88% of workers considered “positive culture” important or essential to their dream job, and 86% said the same for work they found “interesting.” Additionally, the same Net Impact survey found that 58% of respondents said they would take a 15% pay cut in order to work for an organization “with values like my own,” demonstrating that Millennials are not just content with “any old job,” but seek meaning in the work that they do.

The issue of Millennials and loyalty is a tricky one, but one thing is certain: We cannot just write-off this generation as disloyal and wishy-washy. With the right workplace atmosphere, excellent leadership, and by providing the right set of motivation tools (as covered in a previous post), Millennials will stick around and perform the kind of innovative, creative work they’re known for.

If you (or your company) needs help creating the right conditions for your Millennial workforce, contact me to discuss potential strategies.


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We’ve been gathering a lot of information about Millennials for the brand new book we’re writing about Millennials and leadership. The book will be a guide for Millennials, their co-workers, and the people who train or lead them.

We recently sent out a survey to dozens of Millennials asking them a variety of career-related questions and received some very insightful responses to our questions. Here’s what Millennials are saying…

What does your ideal workplace look like?

“My ideal work place allows a lot of flexibility, and does not require me being chained to a desk all day. It offers variety in terms of working independently and in teams, and variety in location for meetings, training, or even the flexibility to work from home or a coffee shop occasionally.” –Laura, public health professional

“My ideal workplace is collaborative. I thrive when I have access to brainstorming sessions with whiteboards, and conversations that combine the Big Ideas with actionable steps.” –Jolene, grad school student & writer

“Ideal workplace would be in an ever changing environment.” –Amy, assistant archaeologist

What are the characteristics of an ideal manager?

“Someone that is more of a leader than a boss.” –Patrick, project geophysicist

“…kind, tactful, promotes equality, empathy, can look at situation from multiple sides, weighs risks to best they can, trusts employees to best they can.” –Laura, museum manager

They’ll mentor and guide you in positive ways, and will offer advice rather than constant criticism. – Brooklynn, project manager in marketing

“An ideal manager is supportive, knowledgeable, flexible, and open to letting me grow in my position.” –Anna, professor

What do you look for when job hunting?

“Am I growing as an individual? Am I learning things about the world that make it a richer place? Am I able to help people? Do I make a positive contribution?” –Lee, senior application scientist

“I look for openings with organizations that have a clear mission. I try to find jobs that fit with my big goals. I look for client ratings on various sites because if none of the clients don’t like that company, it’s a pretty good indication that there are many problems within the company.” –Mary, fundraiser

“Something that I’m passionate about. The last few jobs I’ve really sought after were ones quite different from each other, but they were all positions that I thought I’d do well in, and that I thought I’d enjoy and be proud to do.” –Nathan, newspaper editor

“Office culture that is cooperative.” –Tara, attorney

Do you care about leadership and titles? Why or why not?

“I don’t worry too much about whether I am a ‘coordinator’ or ‘planner’ or ‘manager’ I worry more about what my job responsibilities are.” –Laura, public health professional

“Proper leadership is important. Without dedicated people taking the helm, large, collaborative projects would never happen. They just wouldn’t. And as for titles, they’re just the names we give people to describe who they are and what they do (or at least that’s what they should be).” –Nathan, newspaper editor

“I do not care for the recognition or attention that comes with leadership roles. For me, titles can become meaningless and are only useful if they connote the roles or responsibilities of the one who holds it.” –Brittany, barista & editor

“I don’t care about titles. I’m annoyed with people who are obsessed with their titles and use it as an excuse to stay within the boundaries of their job description or fail to adapt when the job changes.” –Jolene, grad school student & writer

What are the advantages of frequently switching jobs? Have you done this in your professional career? Why or why not?

“I like to not feel like I’m ‘stuck’ or just going to work and punching the clock, I want to know that what I’m doing matters, and that it stimulates me, or I don’t want to do it and I’ll move on to the next thing.” –Laura, public health professional

“The longest I have stayed with a company is 2.5 years. Switching frequently has helped me experience different styles of leadership, given me exposure to a huge network of people, and also has helped me make more money. In my experience, I have learned that you can get a larger salary increase by finding a new job rather than getting a promotion at a current job.” –Brooklynn, project manager in marketing

“I guess an advantage would be you can’t get sick of your job if you switch often. I have been in the same job since I became a nurse. I enjoy what I do so I have not left yet but I have seriously considered it.” –Sarah, RN

What do you think a typical workplace will be like in the future?

“More collaboration, less defined boundaries. People working for fulfillment and sense of purpose rather than prestige of title.” –John, marketer

“Less defined by a physical space.” –Tara, attorney

“More teleworking, more VTCs, more conference calls. Less traditional office time.” –Marjorie, chief of safety and occupational

What are some of the positive features of the Millennial generation? Negative features?


“We travel the world, we grew up with the internet and we’re really good at finding information, we want to collaborate and work together (because that’s what you’ve been teaching us to do since kindergarten), and we want our work to match our values.” –Jolene, grad student & writer

“Multi-task, women and racial equality, have a can-do attitude, are used to change” –Laura, museum manager

“Hopefully, once some of us are able to work in our field, we will be eager and hungry to perform well. Most of us have worked less-than-excellent jobs between graduating and a “career-type” job so we have an appreciation for a good job.” –Brittany, barista & editor

“I think early millennials are hard-working, responsible, and willing to learn. I think we are explorers, and volunteers, and teachers. We care about family values like trust, loyalty, dedication, honesty.” –Rain, graduate assistant


“Some might have broken spirits and have become embittered after being underemployed.” Brittany, barista & writer

“We don’t know where to settle down, we know lots of information but sometimes lack deeper understanding, we need better models for collaboration that leads to results, we’re picky about where we want to work but during the recession we didn’t have a lot of choice…” –Jolene, grad student & writer

Instant gratification, too nice, sometimes can’t work on their own” –Laura, museum manager

“I think technology advances have been very detrimental to the success of our generation. Instant gratification and the ability to commit seem to be a challenge for many Millennials.” –Sarah, RN

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