Millennials at Work: Instant Gratification and the Need for Speed

The infamous traits of the Millennial generation have been studied, discussed and debated far and wide: they’re always connected, they’re ambitious, they’re approval oriented and more. In this series of blog posts, “Millennials at Work,” I’m diving into each of these stereotypes and discussing how they impact this generation and those of us who work with them.

Millennials (a.k.a Generation Y) are the instant gratification generation. They literally hold the world in their hands and have done so from a very young age.

If you are a Millennial and wonder what Drake is thinking or doing right now, you can find out on Twitter.

If, while watching the 2014 Super Bowl halftime show, you wondered how old Bruno Mars was, you could Google it (he’s 28, by the way).

If you wonder what your friends will think of a new pair of shoes, you can snap a picture and ask about it on Instagram, Facebook or Snapchat.

The Millennial generation is accustomed to having questions answered quickly, acting on that knowledge immediately and receiving feedback on demand. How does this sense of instant gratification play out at work?

A desire for continuous feedback and improvement

Perhaps due to heavily involved parenting, the ability to score Facebook “likes,” the rush of success from completing challenges in video games or a combination of them all, Generation Y expects feedback on a constant basis. This can drive Baby Boomer and Gen X managers crazy, but I prefer to view this as a positive trait: Why not celebrate the fact that Millennial employees want frequent guidance so they can adjust, pivot and shift what they are doing and make progress?

Of course, the trick for ambitious Millennials is to gain the benefits of feedback without going overboard. For young workers, it’s important to recognize this tendency and remember that generations above you are not used to it. Asking for feedback constantly may drain your boss’s energy. You can make it easier on both of you by setting specific goals and tracking your own progress toward them. Check out some apps you can use to help you with measuring your progress. You can also ask your boss directly how and when he or she prefers to provide feedback so you can manage your own expectations and get the most out of those moments.

For employers, there’s no getting around the fact that the newest members of your workforce are going to seek evaluation often. But, giving more input on performance doesn’t always have to come from one manager. In fact, Salesforce’s allows multiple people to provide feedback to employees, and Facebook is an example of a company using the tool successflully.

Recognizing when faster isn’t better

Another way instant gratification plays out in the workforce is when Millennials assume in any given situation that the faster they accomplish a particular goal, the better. However, this isn’t always the case, especially when human interactions are involved. For example, it might be easier to text a client when you can anticipate being late for a meeting, but a phone call could add the personal touch that lets your client know you care. You might want to seem efficient by getting back to your boss’s email ASAP, but make sure you proofread it before you send to avoid typos or a questionable tone. Sometimes the little things that slow you down are really the essentials for creating positive perceptions.

One final noteworthy way that instant gratification plays out at work is also in Gen Y’s sense of ambition, which I’ve written about in a previous post in this series.

How do you see instant gratification changing the workforce? The way you do business? Share your thoughts with me in a comment.

Share this post

hi, i'm lindsey!

Lindsey is a globally recognized career and workplace expert and the leading voice on generational diversity. She has spoken for more than 300 audiences including Google, Goldman Sachs, Estee Lauder, Stanford and Wharton. Lindsey is the author of four career and workplace advice books, and her insights have appeared in media outlets including The TODAY Show, CNBC, NPR, the Harvard Business Review and the Wall Street Journal.


Learn 25 Practical Ways to Manage Across Generations