No, Millennials Don’t Expect a Trophy For Every Little Thing They Do at Work

© Tinka - Fotolia.com
© Tinka - Fotolia.com

Telling someone “thanks” for taking on additional responsibility is not only the right thing to do, but can also boost future efforts as well.

Surprise, surprise! Gen Y doesn’t expect a trophy, certificate or pat on the back for every little thing they do at work, according to research from Lumesse (formerly StepStone Solutions).

Of course, I’ve written repeatedly that this perception simply isn’t true, but Lumesse now confirms (quoting):

  • 38 percent of workers aged 56-60 said they believe they will always be recognized and rewarded if they work harder or take extra responsibility.
  • Only 19 percent of Gen Y workers (ages 18-25) feel the same.

Rather than rehash the same message about misconceptions and stereotypes of Gen Y employees, I’m interested in your own take. Tell me in comments (or take the quick poll at right. TLNT readers, click through to get to it here.):

  1. Do you (or your employees) take on extra responsibility in the first place?
  2. If so, why do you take it on? For the challenge? “It needs to get done?” An expectation of recognition and reward?
  3. If not, why not? Because you know no one will notice or appreciate it? You just don’t have time? Honestly, you’re too disengaged to care?
  4. If you (or others in your organization) take on extra work or go the extra mile, how does leadership respond? An ever increasing workload since you’ve proven you can handle it? Promotion or career advancement? Recognition and praise for your efforts?

I argue that even the most committed, engaged and gung-ho employee will volunteer for extra work only so many times without receiving some kind of recognition and appreciation of those efforts. Research I’ve written about on Compensation Café shows people who are thanked for their help on a task are 100 percent more likely to help again in the future than if no appreciation is given.

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The choice is obvious to me. Give employees the appreciation and recognition they deserve when they go above and beyond.

This originally appeared on Derek Irvine’s Recognize This! blog.

Derek Irvine is one of the world’s foremost experts on employee recognition and engagement, helping business leaders set a higher vision and ambition for their company culture. As the Vice President of Client Strategy and Consulting at Globoforce, Derek helps clients — including some of world’s most admired companies such as Proctor and Gamble, Intuit, KPMG, and Thomson Reuters — leverage recognition strategies and best practices to better manage company culture, elevate employee engagement, increase retention, and improve the bottom line. He's also a renowned speaker and co-author of Winning with a Culture of Recognition. Contact him at irvine@globoforce.com.

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2 Comments on “No, Millennials Don’t Expect a Trophy For Every Little Thing They Do at Work

  1. Millennial here. Graduated college a year ago, joined the workforce immediately thereafter. In the past year, I’ve received no trophies, certificates or special recognition. I’ve gotten “thank you”s and “good job”s on things that I’ve done exceptionally well. And that’s all I expected or really wanted.

    I don’t know where the idea that we all need a trophy came from, but I gave up on that not long after I stopped playing little league baseball. I won’t speak for the rest of my generation, but all I really wanted upon graduating was to get my chance to contribute something and be taken seriously. At the risk of sounding like a young whippersnapper, it seems to me like it was the older generations who were so convinced that Millennials would be a pain to deal with in the workplace, when all we really wanted was to do the things we were told we could when we grew up.

    1. TJ — I also think the notion of Millennials being fixated on “trophys” is an overly broad and badly overused idea, but the thinking behind that notion probably comes from this now somewhat out-of-date book — http://www.thetrophykids.com/

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