Millennials, Avocados and Workplace Values

Karla Dunbar
Topics Age
Karla Dunbar Acting Office Manager & Executive Assistant to the CEO/ Operations & Support Assistant  Diversity Council Australia

International Youth Day, 12th August

I am a member of the work-force and a millennial.

There is a common myth in popular culture that my generation are sheltered, entitled, narcissistic and guilty of “job-hopping”.

Apparently, we also match these traits with high expectations and a love of wasting money on smashed avocado on toast.

However, recent research suggests there is limited evidence of differences in generational work behaviours. And generational stereotypes in the workplace are harmful to younger workers.

A recent report from Per Capita argues that where differences in certain workplace behaviours are experienced, the statistical effect of the sizes are small. The report urges caution from organisations in implementing workplace strategies that target or emphasise “unique” values and characteristics of generations.

In agreement, IBM’s study of the preferences and behavioural patterns of Gen Y against those of Gen X and Baby Boomers, suggests that the attitudes of Millennial employees are not vastly different to that of older generations. 

“They want financial security and seniority just as much as Gen X and Baby Boomers, and all three generations want to work with a diverse group of people. Millennials also align with other generations over what it takes to engage employees at work”.

Research from the Pew Research Center also supports the fact that we are just as likely to stay with our employers as our Gen X colleagues were when they were young adults.

Millennials change jobs, and even careers, for the same reasons as other employees. Often due to financial incentives and a need for a more innovative work environment

Just as any other employees, Millennials strive for work-life balance, to be able to juggle the many aspects of our personal and professional lives – and if “with age comes wisdom”, we are highly likely still developing the skills to achieve this.

These perceived characteristics coupled with assumptions about the work experience a young person can bring to the workplace can lead to ageism. But it’s a different sort of ageism than what we are used to talking about.

An Australian Bureau of Statistics Survey reports that those aged 15-24 are more likely to report experiences of age discrimination compared to those aged 55-64.

Although an increased rate of reporting could be related to an increased awareness of rights in the workplace, the report highlights that adhering to prescribed identities or stereotypes is dangerous. Just as it is for any group in the workplace.

But what about workplace motivations?

Studies analysing our motivations not only in the workplace but also our interactions in the world around us also suggest that Millennials also have a strong sense of both local and global community and are exceedingly team-orientated. Through an increased emphasis on not only the work-life balance and social consciousness but also producing meaningful work, there is a focused support for corporate social responsibility.

In attracting young future employees to their workforces, employers need to consider how inclusive their workplace is. More-so than previous generations, Millennials are attracted to employers that have corporate social responsibility values that matched their own and will take into account the values of an organisation when considering a job.

By 2025 Millennials will make up 75 per cent of the global workforce. Though HR teams should avoid workplace strategies that target behaviours of different generations, organisations need to consider their appeal to this future workforce. Millennials want to work for organisations that make a positive contribution to society.

Last year when I was close to the completion of my degree, I began the “coming-of-age” hunt for full-time work. In my application process, an important consideration for me was the work environment of that organisation. Would this be the kind of environment I could perform best in? Would all aspects of my identity, visible and invisible be welcome?

I was concerned about gender equality and curious about the options for flexible working arrangements. I also wanted to know whether that organisation had inclusive team environment, that all employees were valued and respected. On even deeper value driven level, I was drawn towards organisations that shared my values around Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander rights, same-sex marriage and even environmental sustainability. 

I cannot ascertain that social justice concerns are a sole characteristic of my generation at this age, it would be naïve of me to ignore the rights, freedoms and yes, privileges I have today due to the relentless work of older generations. However, with technological advances, our personal and professional lives are intertwined more than ever.  With the blurring of two worlds, no longer do employees leave a part of themselves at home.

The opportunity for bringing our authentic selves to work allows us to perform at our best, especially when we align with an organisation’s vision and values. By fostering inclusive workplaces, organisations can harness the different talents and perspectives millennials bring to the workplace.

There is a range of stereotypes surrounding millennials in the workplace that research tells us that do not hold weight. Though our outlook is different, our output is the same.

Despite the differing opinions on the attitudes and behaviours of Generation Y, just as every generation before us, we will leave our mark on the workplace and the future of business. Hasn’t avocado on toast changed the breakfast game?


Karla Dunbar
DCA's Acting Office Manager/Assistant to the CEO
Operations & Support Assistant



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