What Millennials Want in a Workplace Really Isn't So Crazy After All

A new study from IBM posits that the generations are more similar that we might think.

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By Nina Zipkin

Are millennials optimistic, socially conscious digital natives or coddled layabouts who can only communicate with a phone in their hand? Since different generations have been bemoaning the ills of the other since the beginning of time, it's probably not super productive to paint an entire group with such a broad brush, either way you slice it.

With that in mind, IBM released a study today called "Myths, exaggerations and uncomfortable truths: The real story behind millennials in the workplace," which aims to debunk the unflattering narratives that follow the young cohort around, especially when it comes to their attitudes in the business world.

Related: Managing Millennials: 5 Tips on Overseeing 'First Timers'

In the summer of 2014, the company polled 1,784 working adults in 12 different countries -- millennials (21-34), Gen X (35-49) and baby boomers (50-60) – and ultimately found that across generations, most employees want largely the same things out of a work environment.

When asked what qualities were most important in a manager, having a boss that was ethical and fair topped the list for all three generations, with 35 percent of millennials and baby boomers and 37 percent of Gen Xers making that choice, with transparency and dependability ranked second and third in importance.

Related: Why More Millennials are Bullish on Entrepreneurship

As for the belief that millennials were raised with a "trophies for all" mentality, 64 percent of Gen Xers thought everyone on a successful team should be rewarded while 55 percent of millennials agreed with that statement. And Gen X employees were also more likely than their millennial colleagues to want to get input from the crowd when it came to making decision (64 percent compared to 56 percent for millennials).

And when it comes time to leave a one job for another opportunity, all three generations were most likely (42 percent of millennials, 47 percent of Gen X and 42 percent of baby boomers) to say they would go if they had the opportunity to take on a higher-paying gig in a more innovative environment.

Related: 3 Things You Need to Know to Recruit and Retain Millennials

The company also held a panel yesterday at its downtown Manhattan offices to discuss the findings of the study. The talk featured Adrian Granzella Larssen, the editor-in-chief of The Muse, Erica Dhawan, the founder and CEO of Cotential and co-author of the upcoming Get Big Things Done, Dan Newman, founder and president of Broadsuite, Inc., David Burstein, founder and CEO of Run for America and the author of Fast Future: How the Millennial Generation is Shaping Our World, and Jonathan Yarmis, a senior analyst at the Skills Connection.

The overall theme of the panel was that the big problems we face can be solved more effectively together. Speaking to his own experience being a millennial CEO, Newman agreed.

"Are millennials different by the means in which they want to communicate? Yes. Having sat on boards with 10 CEOS who were all over 50 years old when I was 28 years old, they didn't want to text message me…but at the heart of it, the way these CEOs inspired an organization came down to the fact that they understood how to communicate with people…great leadership comes down to the ability to communicate values and vision."

Related: Is Job Hopping Losing Its Bad Rap? (Infographic)

Nina Zipkin

Entrepreneur Staff

Staff Writer. Covers leadership, media, technology and culture.

Nina Zipkin is a staff writer at Entrepreneur.com. She frequently covers leadership, media, tech, startups, culture and workplace trends.

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