Millennials: Don’t call us entitled.


We have been frequently told that we’re raising a strawberry generation. An entitled generation. A high rewards, low contribution generation. These comments didn’t come from just a handful of people, it is ubiquitous throughout the industry.

These criticisms need some rebuttal.

Whilst we are being chided for being self-entitled, for not doing things the “proper way”… I’d like to question the working world: why do we still stick to old, tired norms? We have new technologies, we have new ways of working, we have new methods to tackle old problems – so why do we not challenge ourselves?

The 21st century is will be marked by the the skyrocketing of exciting technologies that open up a myriad of possibilities. Creative destruction has wiped out ineffective old ways of working and thinking.

From the perspective of a younger worker, we’d like to challenge these traditional views of us and the working environment.

10. The traditional workplace says you cannot have “work-life balance” from day one. Why not?

We have today tools that give us instant, global communication. The office had shrunk to fit in a laptop, even a phone. With these enablers, why are we not able to offer better flexibility in how we manage time?

9. Society says we can’t be paid well from day one. Why not?

Employers often scoff at those who ask for $4/5/6k from day one. Whilst the market should decide on what salaries are high and how to compensate, They frequently say “show me how you’ll help me earn this amount and I’ll pay it to you”. But really: have you given that opportunity to the person to prove it? Or did we just dismiss the worker from the interview? I think the approach we ought to adopt is: everyone is competent until proven otherwise.

8. The common belief is that we cannot pursue personal interests alongside our jobs at the same time. Why not?

Many today are increasingly questioning why we demand employment monogamy.  If a worker is doing work that does not conflict with her day-time job, why is there a need to restrain her from indulging in a profit making activity? Especially if that activity gives her greater exposure and sharpens her entrepreunal spirit.

7. Our elders tell us we cannot change our jobs frequently. Why not?

I’d like to clarify first that frequent job hopping in a matter of months or even a year or two is not healthy. But in a world where opportunities are everywhere and you need to find your calling, do you really need to feel guilty about moving on?

As a matter of fact, some experts suggest employees review their jobs every two to three years and move on if there isn’t a good fit.

6. We’re told we must have a university degree if we were to succeed. Does it?

Is the paper relevant anymore? In a world where Google gives us answers and solutions, where intelligence and problem solving skills are not necessarily proven by degrees… is there still a reason for salaries, promotions and job opportunities to be limited by paper?

Rather, it is the attitude of learning that’s going to help our careers. It is through building  a career identity through means such as industry networking and workplace visits. Learning the insights and skills needed to move up within they own industry; and new skills needed to transit across different industries. Just paper alone is useless.

5. We’re always told that progress must be linear and not exponential.

There are still companies who let you progress to a new level because of age or time. Or only when a seat becomes available. Or when no one else wants to do the job. Are our companies savvy enough to proactively create positions of leadership, responsibility and better pay to find, train and fit the people who deserve it?

4. Do we have to give up flexibility for the stability of a salaried job?

We have the ability to live better lives, so why shouldn’t we cater for it? Between flexibility and stability, is it necessary to be either one or the other? Programs such as portable insurance and family care leave are both examples of how we can design flexibility into our HR policies.

3. Are we a generation of workers that are obsessed with “rights”?

The word “rights” is incorrectly interpreted as a sacrifice on profit. It doesn’t have to be that way. Recognising that workers are people and that people have physiological and psychological needs to fulfil before they can perform is a way forward. Take care of the worker and the worker will take care of your business.

2. Do we have ideas that are not realistic?

We have today a very interesting new corporate landscape: a sharing economy, the internet of things, the Uber-isation of things. We have technology that gives us freedom and enables us to multi-task. I believe we have not fully capitalised on these tools and processes yet. These are all new, exciting and companies are finding ways to profit from this changed landscape in ways that we have never before thought of. We should act as enablers rather than an extinguisher of ideas.

1. Are we really “expensive and entitled”?

Of all the criticisms of young workers, this is probably the most ubiquitous common comment. Someone steps through the door, fresh from university and asks for a high salary and the alarm bells go off. We’re not “expensive”. Perhaps it is your business that can’t deliver value. Or perhaps our objectives are not the right match.

Are we entitled? It depends on how we see the entitlement: are they legitimate reasons for doing a job well? Or is it an unreasonable request?

When Ong Teng Cheong commissioned Orchid Country Club for unionists, he questioned why rank and file workers can’t have country club entitlements too?

And with that, I’d like to leave a thought: Why must we groan and suffer our way to success, when we can zip there in a Ferrari?



About the author

Tay Leong Tan

Tay Leong Tan is a collective of 3 writers. Tay, Leong and Tan. (Who were you expecting?!) We are enthusiastic about labour issues, economics and current affairs in particular.

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