OMG, Millennials Care about their At-Work Reputations

December 13, 2015

OMG, Millennials Care about their At-Work Reputations

We released a short survey this week that we did with the Institute for PR and KRC Research.  Here is a direct link to the full infographic. We wanted to get a snapshot on whether Millennials and other generations worry about their reputations at work and what they think goes into building a positive one as well tearing one down. After all, it seems that all we hear about these days is Brand Me, Brand You and Personal Branding.

Our research among 600 employed Americans found that nearly one in two Millennials worry about their at-work reputations all or most of the time. In fact, they are twice as likely as Boomers to worry about their reputations at work (47% vs. 26%, respectively.) GenXers fall in somewhere in between at 37%.

The findings surprised me in a good way. First, when it comes to building a positive reputation at work, all generations agree that doing a good job, being on time and being courteous rank #1, #2 and #3.  Considering the vitriolic language of the past few weeks with the US presidential candidate primaries heating up, the awareness of a need for civility at work caught me off guard. Maybe it shouldn’t have. People want to bring their best selves to the office so that they can pay their rent, meet people to be friends with and buffer themselves against what seems like an increasingly hostile external environment. However, the fact that punctuality and courteousness are considered so important to reputation-building for the Millennial at-work crowd warms my heart and says that their Boomer parents maybe did something right. Bravo Boomers.

We also found that Millennials value in-person, face to face relationship-building at this early stage in their careers, even more than GenXers and Boomers. They regard bringing food and beverages into the office to share with coworkers and going out with colleagues after work as reputation-boosters. Yes, they may be digital natives but high touch human interaction is not to be overlooked on their watch. The acknowledgement that personal interaction at work is important to Millennials as they build their personal brands is useful information for managers. Email should not replace in-person conversation at the office and managers should work hard at creating a sense of community at work which might keep Millennials on the job longer.

In the same vein, I was particularly intrigued by learning that 47% of Millennials believe seeking feedback from their colleagues is important to building a good reputation (compared to 40% of GenXers and 37% of Boomers). In the past three years or so, I have noticed that the TB (Touch Base) culture at work has now become the new normal. An article I found confirms this — the most used phrases (44% of office workers admitted to using them) out of a top ten list include it’s a ‘win-win situation’, ‘touch base’, ‘going forward’, ‘close of play’ and ‘it’s on my radar.’ Perhaps the TB culture is another example of Millennials wanting that face to face feedback so they can better shape or sculpt their reputations.

Our research found that Millennials certainly understand the stakes of building a positive reputation at work. Afterall, they’ve been schooled in brand-building from a young age. When asked when a person’s reputation at work is established, 83% of Millennials say within the first three months compared to 74% of GenXers and 75% of Boomers. First impressions count in reputation-building and 90 to 100 days is not much time. So keep on bringing in those donuts, home baked goods and cupcakes (you should see what we have at Weber Shandwick!)

Overall, a positive take on Millennials in the workforce. Glad to see.



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Leslie Gaines-Ross
Leslie Gaines-Ross

As Weber Shandwick’s Chief Reputation Strategist, I focus on the ever changing world of reputation. For the past 25 years, I have relentlessly observed, researched and commented on the rise and fall of corporate and CEO reputations.

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