Busting Myths about Millennials in the Workplace

Millenials article

Busting Myths about Millennials in the Workplace

From “lazy, selfish, entitled, and narcissistic” to “optimistic and bent on saving the world”, the perception of Millennials varies wildly depending on who you ask. Millennials are the generation born in the 1980’s, now ages 18-34, who are identified by being “digital natives”, or coming of age with advanced technology.

The Pew Research Center found that Millennials do differ from other generations in many ways, such as a record amount of student debt, a more liberal outlook, a general detachment from organized politics and religion, a high proficiency with technology and social media, and a tendency to marry later and less often [1], but as employees are they really so different from previous generations? Do they resent authority? Are they likely to disobey rules or regulations that keep them and other employees safe? Today we’ll take a look at some common myths regarding Millennials in the workplace and see just how they stack up against previous generations.

Myth 1: Millennials’ career goals and expectations are different than those of older generations.

Millennials share the same career goals as Gen X’ers and Baby Boomers, and even in nearly identical priority. Solving social and environmental problems and making positive changes within the workplace are very important to all generations, with Millennials being just as focused on financial security and career advancement [2].

Myth 2: Millennials need constant validation and acclaim, and want everyone on the team to be rewarded.

When asked what qualities they would most like to see in their boss or organization, the top priority for Millennials was fairness, transparency, and dependability, with recognition falling lower on the list. In fact, when asked what employees should be rewarded for, it was Gen X’ers that were more likely to want the entire team to be rewarded and to see collaboration recognized. A Millennial does not expect constant validation, but they do expect fairness as much as any other generation.

Myth 3: Millennials can’t detach themselves from social media, and don’t respect the boundaries between personal and professional lives.

Quite the opposite, when it comes to job training and interaction, the top 3 Millennial preferences involve physical interaction or training, and they are no more reliant on digital training or interaction than Gen X’ers. Ironically, it’s Baby Boomers who have a hard time keeping work and play separate in the world of social media, with only 7% of them saying they never mix the two.

Myth 4: Millennials must consult their peers or “crowdsource” in order to make a business decision.

It’s true; many Millennials do say they make better decisions when they have the input of multiple peers, but a higher percentage of Gen X’ers feel the same way. Surprisingly, it’s Millennials and Gen X’ers that tend to trust a boss’s qualifications/competence, where Baby Boomers are less likely to seek any outside input and are more skeptical of whether a boss knows best.

Myth 5: Millennials tend to be perpetually dissatisfied with their jobs, and tend to job hop or jump ship.

While “following one’s heart” or “saving the world” are two of the top four reasons to leave a job for a Millennial (along with “enter the fast lane” and “shoot for the top”), those are actually the top four reasons for all generations, with percentages deviating very little. One statistic that seems troubling is that 27% of Millennials have already held five or six jobs, but this is more an indicator of a rough economy than a tendency to jump from job to job, as 75% of them had held their current position for at least three years.

     If you listened to every detractor, you would think Millennials were digital zombies constantly glued to a touchscreen, or would-be saviors of the planet too caught up in activism to stay put, but from the horse’s own mouth we see that this is an exaggeration. Fairness, personal satisfaction, and financial security are constant desires of all employees, and Millennials require no more special treatment than any other generation.

[1] http://www.pewsocialtrends.org/2014/03/07/millennials-in-adulthood/
[2] http://www-935.ibm.com/services/us/gbs/thoughtleadership/millennialworkplace/

Written by Shawn Steele

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