Challenging the millennial stereotype

December 15, 2011 at 11:46 am Leave a comment

I work in a small company, so I tend to interact with the same colleagues on most projects. My teams haven’t included many co-workers from the millenial generation, so I’ve been curious about the hubbub surrounding people under the age of 30. The few I’ve encountered seem as dedicated and hard working as gen Xers or baby boomers in our organization.

So why all the bad press about millenials? I’ve come to the conclusion that their differences are just more pronounced than workers of other generations.

I’ve heard that they are addicted to technology: Their generation grew up with the Internet boom that has changed just about everything in our lives.

I’ve heard that their expectations are high and they crave excessive amounts of praise: They came of age during the transition from more authoritarian parenting to an emphasis on positive feedback and understanding.

I’ve heard that they don’t want to work extra hours and expect flexible work schedules: They are influenced by their parents’ workaholic tendencies. They saw the result of favoring work over personal life—more divorces and layoffs.

A few commentators echo the same feeling. In his Forbes article “Leading the ‘Lazy’ Generation,” Ty Kiisel says that “grey hairs” tend to misinterpret the wishes of millenials. They don’t mind rolling up their sleeves, but if paying your dues means staying late hours doing busy work, millenials aren’t interested.

In another Forbes article, Lauren Rikleen says that millenials’ skillful use of technology allows them to get more done without the “face time” valued by previous generations. Millenials want their managers to recognize their contributions, no matter whether they do their work in a cubicle or at a coffee shop. Rikleen reminds employers that the millenials represent the first generation in history in which dual earning families will be the norm. With fewer stay-at-home parents, managers can expect workers to seek more flexibility.

What is your experience with millenial workers? Are the stereotypes ringing true or are the differences between the generations overplayed?

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Entry filed under: Company Culture, HR Management, Management. Tags: , , , .

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