The term “millennial” is more often than not cast in a negative light.
Usually stereotyped to be flakey, idealistic and entitled, employers tend to be more wary of them, and there are some around me, while falling into the definition solely based on age, who refuse to be identified as ‘the M word’.
“How dare you call me a millennial,” quipped my friend-respondent, half seriously and half jokingly (but mostly seriously).
But the polarising feelings towards the term don’t just appear out of nowhere – in research by recruitment agency Robert Half in 2015, the group is shown to be more prone to looking for a new job as compared to other more passive options when refused a pay raise from their bosses.
Said David Jones, senior managing director of Robert Half Asia Pacific, “The expectations of millennials are high because they are living in an age of low unemployment in Singapore. They expect a pay rise or a promotion as they are confident they can find employment elsewhere if their expectations are not met.”
Sounds ironic, but the ‘strawberry generation’, while seen as flippant by employers, actually do have a rather sober view of working life.
A Millennial Careers: 2020 Vision survey conducted by ManpowerGroup Singapore found that 39% of the millennials they surveyed expect to work past age 65, 22% expect to work past age 70, and 14% felt that they are likely to work until they die.
And as for job hopping – a trait commonly associated with the group, 50% of those surveyed revealed that they would stay with their current employers for the next few years or longer. To be noted, though, is that millennials are still more likely to leave when they feel unsatisfied with their jobs.
Survey results also revealed that rather than being spoiled, they are actually working long, or even longer than those in other generations, with Singapore millennials clocking in an average of 48 work hours per week.
But while surveys can give us all the data in the world, what are millennials actually saying about what they deem as a deal breakers in a job? We spoke to a few and found out.
Singapore Millennials Speak Out
(names have been changed for privacy purposes)
Maria, 26, Marketing Executive
I will leave if I need and want to gain a new skill set at another company, in another position. I think that stagnation and feeling like I’m not learning anything is one of the main reasons why I’ll be put off continuing with the company.
Company culture is also important – if it’s too rigid, uncaring, or it doesn’t empower me to make me feel like I’m making a positive impact…that’s a definite no-no.
Dylan, 29, Team Lead
Call me weak, but I’ll leave when the people and place are toxic. Work is busy as it is, but if you can’t even rely on your team to help you fill in the gaps without feeling like you’re being judged – that’s when work becomes dreadful.
Also when there are obvious freeloaders or colleagues who just do the jobs for the ‘glory’ around. It’s very unfair to the colleagues I know who do the not so glamourous, but tedious work. So when I realise that the bosses are giving unfair promotions, that’s when I’ll consider if working in a place is worth it or not.
But mostly, I quit when I start feeling like I spent my entire work day doing nothing I feel proud about.
Jane, 26, Analyst
I’ll quit because of the lack of support and guidance. I understand that I’m here to work, and self-improvement is something you work on, on your own, but with lack of support, there’s no way I would stay.
I can learn things on my own, but no one can get somewhere without people telling you where you went wrong. I know we have to find our own ways to learn, but when we already do, and are already implementing what we learn in our jobs, we want honest feedback not some cursory “Oh it’s good.”.
I don’t want self-validation. I want constructive feedback. I’d rather hear it from my boss, not my client. We have to work TOGETHER to find ways to get there, not throw the “millennial” new jobs to do and ask them to figure out on their own because “opportunity”.
Emma, 25, PR Executive
Boss, pay, and no time for myself. It’s so important to have bosses you can get behind, whether it be in terms of ability or character. The two characteristics rarely come together, so you have to decide what you value more and make your decision based on that.
Ferdinand, 28, Arts Manager
I think that a sense of ownership in what I do and the ability to make decisions is quite important to me. I would also quit to take a break. I’m very aware that work-life balance will always be a struggle so quitting is an extreme, but at my previous company, I felt I really needed to focus on my own well-being again, to like tip the work life struggle more to the life side, for a while.
Oh, I would also quit if the people working with me are unfriendly, unsupportive and mean.
Andrew, 27, Marketing Executive
Generally, I leave my job because I’m looking for growth and for experience. I’ll leave if both are lacking.
But if both are fulfilled, then I’ll be looking at monetary benefits and increments.
Ziyi, 25, In Between Jobs
It’s quite hard to say in general why I’d leave a job, because I feel I’d take into account many different factors before resigning. But some reasons I’ve seen ex-colleagues leave is finding another position that is more in line with their interests, career goals and also personal reasons.
Nelson, 28, Supervisor
The lack of progression, management issues, overly long work hours – these are some of the reasons why I’ll quit my job. Also, if the pay isn’t decent enough. While it might sound a bit flippant, I have also considered quitting my job to pursue my interests!
Anthony, 27, Assistant Director
When a manager lacks knowledge, and can’t guide me. Also when there seems to be no direction in the company, and if it doesn’t operate in line with my belief system. Or, on a more positive side, I’ll quit when I want to discover or pursue what I “truly” want to do.
Quendra, 26, Marketing and Comms Executive
I’d leave because I don’t seem to be held to the same standards as my colleagues who have children or romantic commitments. If I’m requested to stay back after work, there’s not really a good reason I have, and it seems like leaving exactly on time is taboo.
It seems like if I don’t have a child, or if I don’t look a certain age that makes it look like family is my priority, then I can’t leave on time without getting a smear on my reputation. If I have something on with my friends, that appears to rank lower than family, when, truthfully, I don’t need to give a reason at all – “I have something on” should be good enough.
Oh, and people are so fearful of authority. I think it’s inefficient, and very often, someone higher up makes a passing comment about something, and the next thing you know, “Let’s not have an opening speech”, and “Let’s have no speeches”.
People fly to make decisions just to please someone instead of consulting with all the parties that have a stake in something, or, even questioning the rationale of the passing comment. The thing is, higher management are still human beings, and most of them I’ve interacted with will listen to you, and they aren’t unreasonable.
It’s just this.. is the word silos? That. It’s very inefficient and slows everything down because I need to re-explain why we’re currently doing things the way we are doing it, and we don’t have a better option at the moment.
I like people to talk and behave like human beings, and interact with each other like human beings, not like gods that walk the earth.
What Are Some Of The Common Gripes?
No growth, no guidance and bad company culture – these reasons constantly came up in the conversations I had, and I couldn’t help but agree as well.
The problem isn’t that millennials are spoiled and entitled – they simply have different priorities. For millennials, hard work is not an issue, but whether or not their efforts are contributing to something greater – be it their career, or some ‘larger’ purpose that they believe in – is what makes them stay or leave.
It’s not a purely ‘millennial’ problem, it’s just an inevitable part of a generation gap.
Soon enough, millennials will move on to be bosses themselves, and it won’t be surprising if the new batch of employees will also have other negative traits thrown at them.
Time will tell.