Top 10 Reasons Millennials Get Fired
As the Generational Guru, I regularly work with people who own and run their own businesses. Many of these people are what you might call "thought leaders," who are highly respected in their fields. They're movers and shakers. And starting a few years ago, they all started saying the same thing:
We're firing our millennial employees.
This troubled me. Why were they firing them? And why did they feel so strongly about the firings that they felt the need to tell me about them as if they were expecting me to give them my approval? I asked many of my clients, who are influencers and business owners why they thought millennials sometimes struggled in the workplace, and why they were getting fired.
As I investigated, trends began to emerge.
What I learned didn't change my positive opinions about my generation -- but it did give me insight into why business leaders sometimes complain. Here's what my clients said about millennials, and why they got fired.
1. Lack of vision
One of my large retail clients told me that, in her opinion, lack of vision was the biggest reason why millennial employees sometimes didn’t make it. A lack of empathy is also hurting many millennials in the workplace, because they're not comfortable with dealing with any form of “conflict” From an employer perspective, they feel this stops millennials from gaining a firm understanding of the circumstances of their role within the company.
Millennials sometimes struggle to appreciate the bigger picture and their role in it. This can definitely hurt their performance at work.
One common complaint about millennials is that phones and computers preempted their need to learn face-to-face communication skills. They're great at Snapchat, Facebook, and texting, but they struggle to get their point across in any way that doesn’t involve technology.
"Communication is vital in any relationship," Jeff Powell, the CEO of Razzoo’s restaurants told me, “not least that between an employee and boss. Even in today's tech-heavy workplace, the most important communication is still done face-to-face."
Meetings, calls, interviews and sales pitches all require sharp communication and interpersonal skills. If a millennial is constantly looking at their phone or smart watch in this type of setting, their boss and customer might wonder how much value they actually bring to the table.
3. Anxiety or depression
According to the National Institute of Mental Health, millennials suffer depression and anxiety more than any other generation. In addition, as many as 30 percent of college-age students have experienced symptoms of depression, and it's not like those symptoms go away once they hit the job market, they typically magnify.
These chemical imbalances can make it difficult just to get out of bed in the morning -- let alone flourish in a stressful or competitive work environment. A boss may think their millennial employee is lazy or dissatisfied if they are not aware of the real reason you are late or not actively contributing in team meetings.
Fortunately, many employers now offer support to workers with depression or anxiety. As workplaces adapt, hopefully this will become less of an issue, but for now it's safe to say that suffering from mental health disorders makes it difficult to hold down a job no matter what generation you are in.
4. Lack of confidence
Leaders are looking for people with four things: Confidence, Drive, Selflessness and Character. Without confidence, the other three characteristics are difficult to develop.
Self-esteem is vital in the workplace. You need to feel comfortable speaking up in meetings, presenting ideas to your boss, addressing unfamiliar people, and working under stressful conditions.
Millennials who grew up with helicopter parents may not be used to accomplishing things on their own, and therefore suffer from poor self-esteem. Unfortunately, if you don't stand up for yourself in the workplace, nobody else will.
5. The need for independence
Millennials don't like to be micromanaged. They want their bosses to trust their judgment and get out of their hair. Sometimes this even extends to working with a team. Some millennials simply prefer to work independently.
For employers, of course, unwillingness to accept a hands-on management style or work well with a team can be a deal-breaker.
According to many of my clients, they have found that forcing a millennial to do something on their schedule, is often a losing proposition. If you can give millennials both freedom and ultimate responsibility, you will have a sweet spot that works for everyone. It is a lot better than having to constantly hire and fire unhappy employees, especially when the average cost of turnover is at least 30-50% of the employee’s annual salary.
6. No fear of being fired
Millennials treat jobs differently than their predecessors like myself, a Baby Boomer. For past generations, a job was a career - a vital part of our identity that often lasted until retirement. Millennials don't see it that way.
If they like where they work a millennial will stay, on average, two to three years. If they don’t feel engaged, important and part of something bigger, they will be seeking a new job within hours.
A concern for many leaders is millennial employees either disagree with how the company is being run or believe they deserve to be paid more, and/or they are too much of a 'lone ranger' to work well within a team.
It is no wonder I hear so many Baby Boomer leaders share they will not hire millennial’s.
I realize that I already listed low self-esteem as one of the reasons millennials get fired, but in fact the opposite is also true. Over-confidence or sense of entitlement is an even bigger reason millennials are fired.
Some millennials act entitled, those that expect all the perks for half the effort are the ones losing their jobs or seeking employment elsewhere.
8. Inappropriate behavior
This problem is not unique to any demographic, but it is particularly timely. Businesses everywhere are cracking down on inappropriate behavior in the workplace especially via social media.
Entertainment giants like Harvey Weinstein, Matt Lauer and Kevin Spacey all recently lost their jobs as a result of sexual misbehavior, but younger millennials are not immune.
As more women enter positions of leadership, pockets of sexual misconduct are being exposed in the business world, and correcting them often means firing employees. Don't be on the wrong side of this sea change.
9. Lack of respect for authority
As I already mentioned, millennials are more likely to think of jobs as temporary stopping points rather than lifelong careers. This can make them seem arrogant.
Millennials typically ask a lot of questions and many leaders mistake this as a lack of respect but it isn’t. Millennials don’t have the advantage of 30 years in their profession and they are trying to learn as much as they can.
Occasionally, millennials may think they know what they're doing and run with their assigned project without any input or instruction from their boss.
Unsurprisingly, many bosses and senior leaders can take issue with this type of behavior, they too want to feel important and respected.
10. Lack of accountability
Excuses kill more millennial careers than all the social media distractions and over shares combined in today’s workplace.
When, not if, something goes wrong - even if the millennial is not completely at fault - it's critical they own it. They should learn from the situation, accept the feedback, and say thank you.
Millennials are people, our children, grandchildren, students, employees and yes, technology and parenting have changed. Yes, millennials face a different employment landscape than older generations. But, neither of these facts mean that millennials are generally better or worse employees than any other generation. They are not good or bad, just different, and in today’s evolving workplace, to stay competitive, we must embrace each other’s differences.
Sher Lynn, the Generational Guru and best-selling author of Ties to Tattoos, Turning Generational Differences into a Competitive Advantage, is a speaker, coach and trainer in the area of Human Resources and Talent Management. Sher specializes in helping employers maximize their human capital by collaborating across the generational gap. Her expertise in human capital management and organization includes: workforce planning, company culture, training, assessments, HRIS implementation, regulatory compliance, strategic alignment, payroll, compensation and benefit programs. Learn more at generationalguru.com.