Ageism | Boss' critique of 'entitled' young staff sparks debate on Millennial work attitudes

Boss' critique of 'entitled' young staff sparks debate on Millennial work attitudes

Young workers have an 'inflated sense of entitlement' and an inability to deal with workplace conflict, a top recruitment boss has claimed.

Recruitment specialist Gary Ashworth believes that Millennial and Gen Y workers find it too easy to walk away from challenges, and need to learn how to better respond to criticism in the workplace – explaining that disagreements can lead to more creativity and better business outcomes.

Ashworth’s comments in the Daily Mail come after an employment tribunal in which 26-year-old accountant Jay Patel sued his bosses for age discrimination, having reportedly been told he was 'too demanding, like his generation of millennials' before being sacked.

The tribunal heard how bosses told Jay Patel that he “expected things to be handed to him on a plate” after sacking him from his job at London-based Lucy A Raymond & Sons.

Mr Patel, who suffers with dyslexia, sued the firm for both age and disability discrimination, winning the latter case but having his ageism claims thrown out by an employment judge.

The sacking sparked a debate about the attitudes of younger workers, with some accusing older bosses of stereotyping Millennials and Gen Y as 'lazy' and 'entitled'.

However, Ashworth opined that Millennials need to learn how to better respond to criticism in the workplace.

Ashworth, who is Chairman of three recruitment firms - InterQuest Group, Albany Beck, and Positive Healthcare - was quoted by the Daily Mail as saying: “Millennials are a pleasure to work with. They have enviable, pleasant, kind, personality traits, which help them excel in the workplace.

“They do, however, require a different kind of management than the generations that came before them.

“This management style is (mostly) straightforward. Millennials need to be recognised for the work they do; they need to feel as though they're making a difference.

“This stems from strong feelings of care about the world around them and a much stronger social conscience than any previous workforce.”

Ashworth went on: “Nevertheless, where the challenge lies with Millennials is their inherent loathing of conflict and their inability to deal with it. In this virtual world, dominated by social media, walking away from challenges is easy.

“As an employer, you need to teach them that conflict can be a good thing. It sparks creativity and can lead to better outcomes than 'dog-nodding' agreement.

“Our job as employers is to teach them how to handle conflict, how to be diplomatic, how to see the world through the eyes others and how to step up and tackle difficult issues rather than just resign at the first sniff of criticism.

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“The other challenge with Millennials their inflated sense of entitlement. Youth culture demands instant gratification.”

However, Alex Arundale, chief people officer at IT firm Advanced, offered the publication an opposing view about younger workers. He said: "Younger generations are very 'present' and have much greater personal awareness of their values and the impact they want to have on the world than previous generations.

"It's easy to use 'woke' in a negative sense and view this generation as demanding. Their questions can make us feel uncomfortable, particularly if we're not sure what our own opinions are.

"They also want more than just a job. They care about how they can bring their authentic selves and values into the workplace and whether they will be respected and responded to."

Attitudes towards Millennials

Millennials – or those born between 1980 and 1999 – are often blamed in the media for disrupting societal norms.

In recent times, headlines have accused this generation of ‘killing’ everything from golf to paper napkins, and their trend towards having less (or even no) children is greatly worrying economists.

However, research from Robert Walters conducted in 2019 indicated one thing that Millennials are creating more of: intergenerational conflict in the workplace.

The researchers dubbed the age group the most ‘impatient generation’ in the workplace, with over 90% wanting ‘rapid career progression.’

Almost 70% of employers believe that this level of ambition and desire is the leading cause of conflict between generations – with a third of Generation X (born 1960-1979) and a quarter of Baby Boomers (born 1940 -1959) and Millennials (24%) agreeing with this.

Millennials widely perceive technology to be the root cause of workplace conflicts. A third (34%) reported that older workers not understanding new technology was the chief cause of these conflicts, followed by younger workers becoming frustrated at using outdated technology (33%) whilst at work.

However, employers and employees from Generation X and Baby Boomers believe that Millennials are far more pampered than was ever the norm in the workplace – with their demands for time and a tailored approach way out of line with general expectations.

“According to our survey almost 60% of workers have experienced intergenerational conflict in the workplace,” said Chris Hickey, UK CEO at Robert Walters.

“As Millennials make up a growing part of the workforce, finding a way for members of different generations to work together effectively is an increasingly high priority.

“Making sure that managers understand what motivates workers from different generations, how they like to communicate, and identifying common sources of conflict is essential to creating a strong team of varied generations and diversity of opinions.”

What the law says about age discrimination

The legislation surrounding the Equality Act 2010 makes it illegal for someone to be unfairly treated because of their age at work.

Under this act, age is one of the nine protected characteristics covered by equality legislation. Employers and hiring managers should be aware of the risk of age discrimination occurring in particular workplace activities such as the hiring process.

According to workers’ union Unison, younger candidates experience age discrimination such as being belittled, passed over for jobs or paid poorly because they are young and deemed inexperienced.

Andrew Secker, Employment Lawyer and Partner at Mills & Reeve, previously told HR Grapevine that ageism “does somewhat appear to be the acceptable face of discrimination for many”.

"With the UK’s workforce aging, we have more generations in the workplace than ever before. Employers will need to address this as part of managing a diverse workforce or else risk facing claims of a similar type,” Secker said.

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