Why Your Millennials Are Unhappy

By: Elijah Mendonca Monday February 27, 2017 comments Tags: Millennials, workplace productivity, employees, business management

Millennials are a different breed of worker than you might be used to. On one hand, they're more demanding, inquisitive, and questioning of the status quo than you might be comfortable with. On the other, a millennial with drive will work harder than anyone you’ve ever hired. As a generation, we’re largely disillusioned with the idea that one should work their entire life away - we would much rather have a blend of the two, with work life and personal life coalescing with one another to become an amalgam of freedom, passion & hard work. For someone who’s been working most of their life with a different outlook, there's a chance that these "generational demands" come as too foreign a concept.

If you’re having trouble retaining your younger workforce, don’t be too quick to dismiss the entire generation as too expectant or listless. Keep in mind, in any relationship, it’s a two way street and you have to give as much as you take! So here are some benefits that don’t come at too great a cost to your business, but might still mean the world to your millennials:

Flexible Working Hours

If you expect your workers to be functioning at optimum efficiency all day, every day, you’re going to need to balance that with an appropriate tradeoff. Most millennials highly appreciate the opportunity to have flexible working hours, telecommute, or have the ability to take off early if they aren’t explicitly needed for the day.

Instead of enforcing a strict clock-in time, or reprimanding your employees for not being early enough with looming disciplinary action (suspension, pay cuts, strikes, etc.), try being lenient about it! Our generation has a deep respect for the honor system and overall, we try our best to abide by it. I completely understand that phones need to be monitored just in case, and client emergencies could happen hours before you even get into the office, but those situations are still remarkably rare. And what do you trade? A little peace of mind for your worker - they won’t be wary of getting pounced on if something sets them a little off schedule. That said, there'll always be ones who are consistently late, or barely on time. If cutting it that close gets to you, here’s a little trick you can employ that reaches a good compromise for both parties: Tell them that work starts at 8:30 (if you expect them to be there by 9), and say they’re welcome to walk in anytime between 8:30 and 9 - I can guarantee you’ll see an increase in response.

Benefits & Paid Time Off

While most millennials are able to turn a blind eye to a lack of benefits (Dental, Vision, 401k), a lack of Paid Time Off is a huge stress factor! If you combine the efficiency demanded on a day to day basis, and the realization that rental & miscellaneous living costs in any major city come up to about 70-80% of a young worker’s paycheck, the denial of an option to take some time off and still get paid for it leads to added stress, and will eventually wear on their productivity and output.

Coincidentally, millennials have been accused of “ruining the vacation” (Entrepreneur.com), because they don’t take their allotted paid time off - in order to be seen as more dedicated to their job, or in an effort to impress or prove that they’re irreplaceable. The Entrepreneur.com article linked above also implies that a lot of workplaces are actually furthering this belief, sending “mixed signals” about taking time off. This is doubly hurtful if you don’t close for national holidays, or aren’t paying your employees for their vacation time. The added stress of having to pay bills but being unable to wears heavily on the psyche.

Yes, the startup life is cutthroat and if you aren’t always paddling, you’re sinking. But when it comes to your employees, keeping their equilibriums in mind on a day to day basis will save you a lot of time, stress, and productivity issues further down the line. Remember, your company runs on rechargeable batteries, make sure you give them ample time to fill up again.

Cameras & Micromanagement

Do you have cameras around? It’s not a problem if you do - they have quantifiable security and accountability benefits. But it’s a smart move to make sure that your millennials are aware of this feature.

With the rise of technology and the ensuing clamor about being spied on, millennials are extra scrutinous of how much they’re truly being watched. While it can range from indifference to a mild annoyance factor for some people, it can make others feel extremely untrusted - which alone can make or break your relationship with a diligent worker.

The same goes for excessive micromanagement. As a business owner, it's most certainly your job to ensure the entire operation is on track every day. This requires checking, double checking, and triple checking everything. But when do you start to completely trust your millennial worker? At first, there'll be growing pains and mistakes, and as you both become more comfortable with each other, you'll eventually realize that even people with the best attention to detail miss things sometimes. So when does it become too much? It varies from case to case, so keep an open, honest line of communication with your younger workers and they'll definitely let you know.

Make Their Lives Easier

While this comes as an added cost to your business, it also has the potential to seriously strengthen the bonds between your millennials and their job. Buy them lunch occasionally. Help pay for their phone plans or car insurance in some manner. Set up a Spotify Premium, Netflix, or Amazon Prime account that they can use. With millennials, it’s truly the small gestures that are appreciated. Especially with such an unrelenting economy, these are just some of the small perks that are very much appreciated, and take more of a load off our shoulders than you might imagine.


In the end, you have to make decisions that suit what you determine to be for the best interest of the company. Can you afford to have flexible hours and paid vacation time for your employees? If the answer is a definite no, due to a severe lack of funds and not because you just don’t believe in it, make sure your millennials understand that. However, if you sacrifice these benefits simply because it would save you money in the short term, or you don’t see the worth in paying someone to do nothing for a little while, you might pay for this belief in lower retention rates, quicker turnover (and thereby the time and money required to train new employees), and decreased productivity due to quicker burnout.

It’s a game of balance, and the scales are in your hands.

Elijah Mendonca

About the Author: Elijah Mendonca

Usually going by "Shiva Mendonca" or "the coolest guy ever," Elijah is an Interactive Media Design: Video Game Design graduate from Becker College, MA. Having moved to Fort Collins, CO on a whim after graduation, he spends his free time sleeping, eating, writing, exploring the natural beauty of Colorado, eating, and sleeping (in that order).

His other interests include listening to music (metal), rock climbing, crossword puzzles, playing squash, swimming, hiking, and cycling. Read more of his work on the facebook page Shiva Mendonca - Author.

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