Under Pressure: Millennials Thrive in High Risk Environments

When it comes down to brass tacks, can you handle a little pressure in the workplace, or will you fold like a deck of cards?

Michael Cusanelli, Associate Editor

February 16, 2016

3 Min Read
Under Pressure: Millennials Thrive in High Risk Environments

When it comes down to brass tacks, can you handle a little pressure in the workplace, or will you fold like a deck of cards?

No matter where you work or what you do, chances are you’re going to have days when nothing seems to go right and the odds are stacked against you. In some cases, market forces and other intangible elements will make your job, and your professional life, difficult to manage and your future uncertain. The question is, can you handle it?

As you move up the corporate ladder, risk management becomes an even larger obstacle standing between you and your long-term success. Arguably, there are certain personality traits a person should possess if they want to occupy a spot at the top of the corporate heap, but a recent study from Russell Reynolds Associates (RRA) said millennials lack two of the four traits required to be successful corporate leaders: trusting others and embracing calculated risk.

I learned about this particular study after reading a piece in Fox Business News, and I found myself growing angry that older generations believe we lack the fundamental characteristics deemed necessary for leadership. Heck, I know more millennials who are willing to take on risk than any other generation, and our level of comfort with the Internet and other collaborative projects completely debunks the misconception that we lack trust in our colleagues.

If you’re looking for an example of someone who’s willing to take on calculated risk, check out my blog post from last week about my good friend, “Jake,” who was willing to risk financial insecurity in pursuit of attending grad school and attaining his dream job. Not only did Jake know the risks, he accepted them and viewed them as an important hurdle to overcome as he strove to do something meaningful with his career. Take a look at any of the other young professionals out there who choose to work for startup technology companies or strive to own their own businesses and its plain to see millennials do not let the chance of failure stop us from working to achieve great things.

And there are several other ways in which millennials constantly prove they are willing to take on risk. The price of the average college tuition is glaring proof that people in their twenties and thirties realize how much is at stake when pursuing their bachelor’s and master’s degrees, yet they do so because they know (or at least hope) that in the long run things will work out in their favor.  If that isn’t calculated risk, I don’t know what is.

Finally, we come to the issue of trust. It’s true certain millennials may have trust issues, but if you look at our generation as a whole you’ll see a culture reliant on aid from others and built on collaboration. This is no more apparent than in any online forum, wiki page, or crowd funding effort, where millennials place their faith in complete strangers to help them achieve great things together. And as I’ve written about in the past, millennials generally prefer to work in groups as opposed to working alone, hence the reluctance of many millennial workers to spend their time telecommuting on a full-time basis.

Studies such as the one conducted by RRA can hold powerful insights into the minds and behavioral patters of certain age groups, but I don’t believe any single study can provide a completely accurate picture of a group on its own. Part of what makes millennials great candidates for corporate leaders is our independence and willingness to jump into a situation feet-first, regardless of the potential outcomes. Whether you consider such behavior brave or foolish is up to you – but you know what they say: no risk, no reward.

The Millennial Report is a weekly column by associate editor Michael Cusanelli, who graduated from Stony Brook University’s School of Journalism in 2013. He is an avid gamer and movie buff who spends nearly as much time concocting the perfect mix tape as he does writing. You can find him on Twitter @MCusanelliSB.

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About the Author(s)

Michael  Cusanelli

Associate Editor, Penton Technology Group, Channel

Michael Cusanelli is the associate editor for Penton Technology’s channel properties, including The VAR Guy, MSPmentor and Talkin' Cloud. He has written articles and produced video for Newsday.com and is a graduate of Stony Brook University's School of Journalism in New York. In his spare time Michael likes to play video games, watch sci-fi movies and participate in all things nerdy. He can be reached at [email protected]


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