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Millennial Misbehavior: Re-Defining Protest In The Workplace


At a recent Millennial symposium in Vancouver, BC a participant asked me the following questions; “How do we get our Millennial employees to work with the systems and processes we have in place? And how do we get them to stop trying to change all our systems?”

I replied, “Why should they?”

Why should Millennials care about the processes your organization currently utilizes? Why should they stop trying to bring change?

This isn’t intended to be a disrespectful answer. It’s an opportunity for mature leaders to look and see if a system or process is in fact no longer necessary.

In the heat of the workplace, the actions of Millennials to disengage from or completely reshape systems and process feels like misbehavior.

Some believe a Millennial’s protest shows they don’t want to participate.

This couldn’t be further from the truth.

Millennials want to bring change, protest existing systems, and question organizational dynamics because they deeply care about the success of the work they do.

Protest is not a negative trait to be stamped out.

Protest is a positive trait which shows engagement with issues, ideas, and tasks. Protest proves engagement with the organization!

A disengaged Millennial will not protest, they simply won’t care.

Protest to seemingly unnecessary constraints is a sign of engagement, it’s a sign an employee wants to succeed.

Resistance is a sign of engagement.

Consider: Do Millennials resist a system or structure because they are protecting something else?

Maybe they are protecting their friendships at work (a high value for millennials). The current system of working in cubicles rather than an open plan environment a challenge for them.

Ask yourself, “How does this protest show engagement?” and “Can we engage together to see our organization succeed?”

As an added bonus, if you define why your systems exist in their current form, protests may disappear. Millennials need to understand why something is done, not simply the task required.