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Millennials want to change the world through their work

  • 15 May 2017

Kids these days, am I right? We can't hold down a job, we expect to be promoted before we've proven ourselves and we put our career needs before the needs of an organisation.

We're the largest age group making up 37 per cent of the Australian workforce yet we're expected to sit down, shut up and wait our turn. What is it about millennials that has everyone scared?

When age discrimination in the workplace is discussed, people often try to justify the stereotype of young people being entitled, selfish and lazy as being based on generational cohort, not age. But for young Australians in the workforce, they are one and the same thing.

Ageism in the workplace isn't new. As a society, we've always discriminated against people based on age. We've traditionally believed that being 'old' means you are weak and out of touch and being 'young' means you're vulnerable and naive. However, recent structural, economic and demographic changes have created new types of ageism that are more subtle and widespread.

One notable change is the presence of two large, culturally distinct generations — millennials and boomers — in the workforce. As boomers are working longer, they are having to share the boardroom table with a new generation who are trying to get an economic foothold. This is where the negative perceptions start. Each generation views work and, therefore, approaches their career in a different way. Boomers often perceive millennials negatively because they don't understand their working style, while millennials want to experiment more at work and see boomers as a barrier.

This ageism debate almost always comes back to the way millennials use technology, however, the way young people behave today is not only a result of mobile phones and Facebook.

In the same way that boomers were shaped by the events of World War Two, young peoples' behaviour in the workplace has been influenced by their experience of the global economic crisis and political instability. Unable to influence some of society's biggest challenges, including income inequality, house affordability and unemployment, millennials feel they can have a greater sense of control and make a positive impact within the workplace.

But unlike boomers, young Australians want more than just technical knowledge. They want the ability to identify and solve global problems in the workplace. Specifically, they want to solve problems that the boomers and those before them created. And this is where the tension arises. Nearly 40 per