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Gen Y’s Number One Most Basic Need In The Workplace | The Resource Guild Blog

Gen Y’s Number One Most Basic Need In The Workplace

by / April 22, 2016

When asked what millennials need in the workplace, I struggle to answer concisely. Because it’s many things. It’s competency; it’s mentorship; it’s flexibility; it’s training; it’s clearly-outlined objectives; it’s independence.

I didn’t realize that these desires had an overarching theme until I studied attachment theory, which suggests that our relationship styles are formed in childhood with enduring, pervasive consequences.

When “attachment figures”—like parents and bosses—are attentive in the right ways, individuals feel comfortable interacting with and mastering their environment. Securely attached children are willing to take risks, grow and engage other people and projects with confidence. For both adults and children, exploration is the foundation of learning, accomplishment and fulfillment.

Our ability to take risks within a nurturing environment is, indeed, the underpinning of self-development and success. Individuals with secure attachments have more stable romantic relationships, better work relationships, superior well being and higher job satisfaction.

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Thus, on the most basic level, working millennials need support to explore.

Yet many workplaces unknowingly foster unstable employee relationships that inhibit exploration. Employers don’t need to “mom” their millennial employees, but they do need to prioritize relationships if they want productive, innovative, long-term workers.

Applying attachment theory to the office can instruct companies how to keep their millennial talent and educate millennials on when to leave. According to theories first set forth by psychologist John Bowlby, there are three attachment styles. Here are the signs that your working relationship will either skyrocket or stifle your potential:

Here are the signs that your working relationship will either skyrocket or stifle your potential:
When asked what millennials need in the workplace, I struggle to answer concisely. Because it’s many things. It’s competency; it’s mentorship; it’s flexibility; it’s training; it’s clearly-outlined objectives; it’s independence.

I didn’t realize that these desires had an overarching theme until I studied attachment theory, which suggests that our relationship styles are formed in childhood with enduring, pervasive consequences.

When “attachment figures”—like parents and bosses—are attentive in the right ways, individuals feel comfortable interacting with and mastering their environment. Securely attached children are willing to take risks, grow and engage other people and projects with confidence. For both adults and children, exploration is the foundation of learning, accomplishment and fulfillment.

Our ability to take risks within a nurturing environment is, indeed, the underpinning of self-development and success. Individuals with secure attachments have more stable romantic relationships, better work relationships, superior wellbeing and higher job satisfaction.

Thus, on the most basic level, working millennials need support to explore.

Yet many workplaces unknowingly foster unstable employee relationships that inhibit exploration. Employers don’t need to “mom” their millennial employees, but they do need to prioritize relationships if they want productive, innovative, long-term workers.

Applying attachment theory to the office can instruct companies how to keep their millennial talent and educate millennials on when to leave. According to theories first set forth by psychologist John Bowlby, there are three attachment styles. Here are the signs that your working relationship will either skyrocket or stifle your potential:

 

1. Anxious/Ambivalent Attachment

When parents are erratic—vacillating between irrational neediness for their children and ignoring them—individuals often develop anxiety and ambivalence toward their parents and later commitments.

The same can occur in the workplace. Anxious/ambivalent managers helicopter your progress, discourage freethinking and believe that “because I said so” is a sufficient explanation. The other half of the time, they can’t understand why you need to consult them on everything. “Just do it,” they say. “Think for yourself.” They want you out of their hair. Employees in anxious/ambivalent workplaces feel like they never get a straight answer. What’s right one day is wrong the next; their goals are a moving target. This inconsistency can make employees feel like they’re going crazy.

2. Avoidant Attachment

When parents fail to exhibit care or concern for their children or leave them alone at length, children may later find it hard to genuinely connect with people or take risks.

Avoidant office environments can initially seem appealing because employees have unique independence. This laissez-faire strategy is particularly common for interns. Companies often don’t have a specific role planned out for them when they start, nor are they deeply invested in what they do (after all, they’re free). As a result, interns can feel like they have no purpose, direction or measurable progress. Though the “cool mom” mentality of modern workplaces is theoretically framed around employee happiness, it often reflects lazy management. At the end of the day, employees feel like their companies don’t appreciate them or care about what and how they’re doing.

 

3. Secure Attachment

When parents are available, responsive and consistent caregivers, children develop secure, confident attachments to their parents and subsequent relationships. They feel safe but also able to adventure, absorb new information and push their comfort zones.

Great companies balance employees’ needs for both solidarity and independence. They offer ample opportunities for intrapreneurship, mentorship and flexibility. They encourage innovation and trust employee discretion but also give direction and check in frequently. Rules and boundaries are rational, clearly stated and consistently upheld. Great managers and companies celebrate small progress while simultaneously motivating employees to aim high. One study explains, “For adults, work (like early childhood play and exploration) is a major source of actual and perceived competence.” Employees in secure workplaces feel good at their jobs and excited to become even better.

Companies don’t need to hold millennials’ hands to get the results they seek. But they do need to treat and care for employees as people not metrics. Understanding their basic desire is a start.

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If you’re a millennial and feel disregarded or anxious at work, it may be time to consider whether your company fulfills your needs. When we’re children, no degree of wandering will remove us from our caretakers. Employees suffering from unhealthy workplace “parenting,” on the other hand, can choose to escape it.

If you’re debating leaving your current job or taking a new one, ask yourself, “Can I explore here?” Define the kind of exploration you crave, whether it’s creative outlets, management opportunities, autonomy or collaboration.

 

Of course, asking this question at all is a modern privilege. But with 137,000 businesses launching worldwide every day, millennials have that luxury.

You can’t grow in place.

So what will you do?

By Caroline Beaton ,Via Forbes

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