Why Millennials Demanding Basic Respect Shouldn't Turn You Off

When I’m called to explain the difference between Millennials and Boomers, it’s easier to demonstrate some examples than others.

It’s easy to explain the difference in what Millennials and Boomers earn. It’s easy to explain the difference in how career opportunities have shifted.

What’s not easy is the more ephemeral differences.

Like how Boomers and Millennials expect to be treated in the workplace.

Why Are Millennials So Sensitive?

I was a Millennial kid who used to watch reruns of Boomer-era shows, and one repeated trope stuck with me: even well-liked, talented protagonists were portrayed as terrified of their bosses.

If the boss came over to dinner, everything had to be perfect. If you served a less-than-great wine or the boss’ wife didn’t like the main course, your career could be ruined!

And forget about making a suggestion to your boss in a meeting. If you suggested that you thought of a possible solution before your boss did, he’d yell at you in front of everyone, and demote you!

I’ve had quite a few members of major leadership teams tell me that they feel Millennials push back too hard when they’re spoken to sharply or shot down in the workplace.

“They’re so sensitive,” is a complaint I hear a lot.

For most Boomers vs. Millennials complaints, I come down somewhere in the middle. Millennials could compromise on this, Boomers could compromise on that.

When it comes to respect, though, there’s no contest. Millennials have this one right.

Why Respect Matters – in Both Directions

The majority of workplaces today are run at a leadership level by Boomers and Gen-Xers, and they continue to operate with the same standards they were taught as young employees.

Your boss can say whatever he wants to you – within legal limits. You, however, can’t say a thing to your boss.

Many Boomers who started their careers with “tough” or “mean” bosses disliked them, but they still uphold the right of more senior employees to disregard the feelings of their employees.

“It’s not your boss’ job to be nice,” they’ll say. “It’s just something we all have to deal with.”

But it’s not a requirement. And, in fact, it costs your company money.

In his groundbreaking book The No A$$hole Rule, Robert L. Sutton shows that companies where bosses belittle, disparage, yell at, or otherwise disrespect their employees have less productive teams, create huge problems, and often cost the company money.

Employee turnover under such bosses is high, too.

You don’t need to go all the way to being a complete jerk to hurt the company’s bottom line. Even casual disrespect, such as snapping “Not now” when an employee knocks on your door, can create the same sorts of problems on a smaller scale.

And this isn’t just for Millennials. All employees at all ages feel this way.

You probably do, too. Even if you had to endure a jerk boss in your early years, you probably wouldn’t suffer one now, would you?

Respect Earns

Employees who feel their bosses respect them report 89% greater enjoyment and satisfaction in their work, 55% more engagement, and 92% greater focus and prioritization.

When employees are happy in their work, they are less likely to leave your company for greener pastures, making showing basic respect one of the best returns on investment you can provide.

Which means Millennials are right about this one.

Respect isn’t just for “precious snowflakes.” It’s for every company that wants to earn more, see better productivity, and retain its most valuable employees year after year.

Paige Cornetet