Millennials, the ‘entitled generation’: Is the branding justified?


Millennials are frequently blamed for their lack of duty and discipline at the workplace, and often called the entitled generation. Senior HR professionals share their opinion on this.

Adil Malia, Group President – HR, Essar Group

Adil Malia

We often become victims of this unfortunate ‘Good–Bad’ bipolar interpretation of world views. In the process, we broad-brush everything we are or whatever we do as being Good. The contrast, of course, of what is anticipated as the change, is painted as being challenging and demurraging to that thesis of ‘Good’. The genesis of this comes from our love, for the good old days and our belief in the good old things!

To that extent this is a stand-off between the GoSEs and the GoEs— an old world paradigm that thrived on a ‘Generation of Suppressed Entitlements’ v/s the millennials who are citizens of a new paradigm, portrayed as a ‘Generation of Entitlements’.

The ‘millennials’ are unfortunately targeted and painted as ‘no gooders’—one of many a recent bi-polar diatribes—by the GoSEs. They have been commonly, and undeservedly, accused of being a generation thriving on entitlements. Truly myopic and erroneous.

The GoSEs, being natives of the old paradigm, embellish their accusations against the ‘Generation of Entitlements’ by adducing the following evidences against the GOEs:

• They don’t put in long hours of dedicated work and yet nurture lofty aspirations that the GoSEs never dared to dream.

• They don’t stick to any one ‘life-long’ job but expect royal treatment at work, despite having not proven themselves. The GoSEs, in contrast, earned their stripes generally thru one life-long assignment.

• They wish to know, upfront, the very clear paths to many things (path to that corner office) that the GoSEs discovered only in the slow burn, and at times accidentally.

• GoEs are brash and do not even remotely hesitate to ask about the gains they can get as ‘quid pro quos’ to their efforts. They have many more expectations of value propositions from the employer.

• They believe in early gratification. While they want to receive their benefits (entitlements) upfront and early, they are in no hurry when it comes to pay-back. For example, it is common for GOEs to take huge loans to buy fancy houses upfront augmented by lifelong EMIs thereafter. This is in sharp contrast with the mentality of the GoSEs — of slogging at work, lifelong, and in old age buying modest houses using their Provident Funds and savings.

• GoEs buy fancy and costly gadgetry, which they inexplicably replace as soon as a new or upgraded version is introduced. On the other hand, the GoSEs replace an equipment once bought only when it stops working or is totally worn off.

• GoEs take unmindful breaks in their lives and careers— to paint, travel to the hills, go backpacking, study philosophy, etc. The GoSE at best took sudden, over-night picnics, and that too only during Diwali breaks.

Therefore, the GoSEs think the GoEs are not only undeserving and brash, but in a way procrastinators and dreamers, who seek benefits without investments.

Based on the evidences adduced and the nature of the arguments presented by the GoSEs, their case against the GoEs fails, and is therefore dismissed. Not only is it based on bias and hearsay but also lacks mature appreciation of the millennial mindset.

The GoSEs have been children of suppressed economic activities. The world then was slow and certainly not digitally networked. Communication was low-key. Radios and black & white TVs were their main windows to the larger world outside. Career options were limited to a handful of companies. Career fields were limited to the basic Arts, Science and Commerce. Opportunities were far and few. Banks had not conceived alternate funding products and credit offerings.

It was a much slower, subdued and a different world. What people got was seen as a blessing. Dreams and ambitions were generally underplayed and suppressed.
The paradigm has now shifted but they are in deep slumber. We live in a bold new digital world and are spoilt for choice, in every arena.

The GoSEs have to transform their thoughts. Attempting to erroneously understand the world of the digitally-native GoEs through the old lenses is like attempting a serious neuro-surgery with a shaving blade!!

GOSEs need to move on to new realities to avoid being fossilised. They should not displace their inadequacies by labelling the millennials as ‘entitlement influenced’. The truth is the GOSEs are ‘deficiency impacted’.

Ruchira Bhardwaja, CHRO, Future Generali Life Insurance

Ruchira Bhardwaja

It is important to define entitlement. Older generations finding the new generation too proud isn’t exactly a new phenomenon. We all have heard or used the term ‘Yeh aajkal ke bachche’ in an exasperated tone, at least once in our lifetime! ? Each generation and group gets its own life experience and the ‘me generation’ to the table.

People complain that millennial want to change everything; that they want to decide what they work on, who they work with and how they want to do it. They want to completely redesign their workspace and work life. So is the new generation too vocal about its likes and dislikes? Is that really a bad thing? My answer is a no, a firm resounding no.

The style of parenting has undergone a massive change in India in the last few decades. Gen Y or the millennials were brought up by parents who taught them that nothing is impossible; that their dreams need not be tamed; that their opinions mattered. No wonder then our kids want to have a say in how the world around them should function.

In my opinion, millennials understand the value of achievement and talent much more than the previous generations in India. They are willing to work hard, do what it takes to be successful, and hence, for them age is just a number, just as it should be for us.

Therefore, when these millennials walk into the offices demanding changes in the status quo – they need to be given a patient hearing (and not met with a raised brow). That is not all, their opinions need to be acted upon if they hold merit. Gen Y is the future of our workplaces and whether we like it or not, they change companies soon if they feel insufficiently empowered to bring about a change. Google is one of the few companies of the world that has a very demographic way of functioning, where opinions of employees play a significant role in shaping company policies. No wonder then that it has been consistently rated as the best company to work for by the youngsters.

So millennials having a ‘so-called’ sense of entitlement is a fact which is not going away soon. In fact, it is keeping organisations on their toes and even forcing them to be thankful for the same. It is not every day that a company gets to know what its people expect of it. And to meet those expectations will not just mean business success but also take the business to the next level.
Who wouldn’t want better ideas (not necessarily just new) replacing status quo?

At a personal level, every millennial I have hired has been an exceptionally committed individual with sharp focus, intelligence and a drive to make a difference. The biggest positive with the millennial generation is the ‘sociability’ unlike the ‘individual-contribution’ that the older generation lived by. Organisations should build an eco-system to harness that intrinsic ability. Also, it’s great to have team members who are more concerned about the quality of work than the size of the cubicle!

Ravi Mishra, Regional HR Head, South Asia and Middle East, Birla Carbon

Ravi Mishra

We can’t reply with an absolute ‘yes’ or ‘no’. One can witness the example of both the shades, depending upon the nature of industry, workplace, geography and through many other variables. But one thing is commonly true, that there are broad differences in behaviour and thinking patterns. Many times the millennials feel they own the special entitlement. This attitude needs to be addressed instead of fuelling negative connotations. There is nothing right or wrong, but what is important is the way organisations handle such situations.

We need to accept that there is change in the composition of employees, in terms of generation gap. The millennials have grown amidst much fast-paced social change in a different era of technological development. Undoubtedly, they carry more knowledge than their predecessors, that is, the Gen-x and baby boomers. But we need to convince them that there is also value of skill and experience in organisations to deliver the best result. Simply put, every organisation needs wisdom or wise men and women at the workplace.

Wisdom = Knowledge + Skill + Experience

Organisations need to mentor their millennial workforce, and appreciate their knowledge. At the same time, they need to share with them and convince them about the value of skill and experience, in absence of which knowledge is like a plane without fuel in the sky. We must also be ready to accept the value of reverse mentoring for our own development by engaging ourselves. Coming back to entitlement, it is merely social evolution. We can observe the contrary view in Japan, where the average age of the workforce in the manufacturing industry is 76. So what?

We can say that our workplace is undergoing change without going through the phase of transition. I presume after five years, there will be another dimension of change at the workplace, when we will have much more representation of young women employees owning their places. Possibly that will bring more stability and maturity at the workplace along with agility.

Organisations need to address the issue instead of blaming and disowning the realities of social evolution. They should refrain from categorising this as entitlement. In other words, we need to shoot the message and not the messenger. One should analyse this in a holistic way and engage the millennials without creating hype. Just because their perspective is different, we shouldn’t equate the difference as a contrarian view point. We need to align without being afraid of losing the space for our own existence.



  1. Good articles on the millennials…well done. The key to understanding them is to understand the world they have grown up in their formative years: exposure to the world and not just their immediate environment or their country alone, enabling technologies that not only get knowledge to your finger tips but allow you to share knowledge widely; media along with comepetition, fuelling aspiration and need for instant gratification.

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