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Tuesday November 13, 2012

How Millennials Work Differently from Everyone Else

Jacquelyn Smith, Forbes Staff

As more and more millennial workers assume management positions, you may notice changes in the nature of the workplace. Why? Because there are distinct differences between the work styles, expectations, and career perspectives of younger and older workers.

A new survey conducted by Harris Interactive on behalf of CareerBuilder between May 14 and June 4, 2012 among more than 3,800 full-time workers and more than 2,200 hiring managers found that a third (34%) of U.S. employees work for a boss who is younger than they are; and 15% said the boss is at least ten years their junior.

Rosemary Haefner, vice president of Human Resources at CareerBuilder, said in a press release that age disparities at work are “perhaps more diverse now than they’ve ever been.” She says it’s not uncommon to see a 30-year-old managing 50-year-olds. “While the tenets of successful management are consistent across generations, there are subtle differences in work habits and views that all workers must empathize with when working with or managing someone who’s much different in age,” she said.

The survey looked at managers and workers in the 25 to 34 age group, and those 55 and older. Here’s what it found:

Communication Styles

How do you most like to communicate at work?

 Ages 55+: 60%
 Ages 25 to 34: 55%

 Ages 55+: 28%
 Ages 25 to 34: 35%

 Ages 55+: 12%
 Ages 25 to 34: 10%

Perspectives on Career Path

You should stay in a job for at least three years:

Ages 55+: 62% agree
 Ages 25 to 34: 53% agree

You should stay in a job until you learn enough to move ahead:

Ages 55+: 38% agree
 Ages 25 to 34: 47% agree

You should be promoted every 2-3 years if you’re doing a good job:

Ages 55+: 43% agree
 Ages 25 to 34: 61% agree

Hours Working

Work eight hours or less per day:

Ages 55+: 58%
 Ages 25 to 34: 64%

Arrive earlier than 8 a.m.:

Ages 55+: 53%
 Ages 25-34: 43%

Leave by 5:00 p.m.:

Ages 55+: 41%
 Ages 25 to 34: 38%

Work after leaving the office:

Ages 55+: 62%
 Ages 25 to 34: 69%

Arriving on time doesn’t matter as long as work gets done:

Ages 55+: 20% agree
 Ages 25 to 34: 29% agree

Work Styles

I like to skip the process and dive right into executing:

Ages 55+: 66%
 Ages 25 to 34: 52%

I like to write out a detailed game plan before acting:

Ages 55+: 35%
 Ages 25 to 34: 48%

While the survey found generational differences in several areas related to communication, work style and career advancement—there is one area where older and younger workers see eye-to-eye. A majority of employees said they don’t mind working for a younger boss—but they do mind sharing a meal with them. And the feeling is mutual. Sixty percent of all surveyed workers and managers said they prefer to eat lunch alone.

Overall, these findings indicate that millennials are more impatient about advancement or moving, they’re more open to flexible work schedule, and more methodical in their work, yet they show up later and work shorter hours.

“Certainly there are short term challenges when the various styles mix,” Haefner says. “However, in the long term, the differences can be a positive asset for a company as those situations teach employees how to deal with change.”

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