Dispelling Myths and Stereotypes About Millennials

By Hannah L. Ubl, Lisa X. Walden, Debra Arbit

Part of Managing Millennials For Dummies Cheat Sheet

Millennials are so heavily stereotyped that it’s almost painful to read through the endless articles, headlines, and news features that dismiss them as lazy, narcissistic, overly sensitive, entitled, and generally the worst thing to happen to the modern working world. To be an effective leader, manager, and colleague, do Millennials a favor and don’t take this click-bait at face value. Take the time to get to know the Millennials you manage, and while you’re at it, be an ally in the quest to bust these harmful myths.

Who are the Millennials?

As it would be with any generation, it’s impossible to dilute Millennial’s essence down to a few short paragraphs. In the spirit of a digestible Cheat Sheet, here’s some of the need-to-know Millennial info:

  • Birth years: 1980–1995
  • Population size: 82 million
  • Alternate identity: Also known as Generation Y
  • Parents: Baby Boomers (for the most part)
  • Traits: Collaborative, tech-savvy, and adaptive
  • Values: Customization, innovation, efficiency, integrity

Combating the most common stereotypes about Millennials

If you’ve worked with any Millennials, chances are you’ve heard one of the following stereotypes. Take it upon yourself to change the conversation and see the truth behind it:

  • Headphones on = distracted and not working. Millennials grew up when music went pocket-sized mobile, and they’re accustomed to having earbuds in when they’re working hard. In most cases, if you see them with headphones in, it’s not because they’re trying to tune you out and slack off, it’s because they’re laser-focused on the task at hand.
  • Asking for constant feedback = needy, participant trophy generation. First of all, they didn’t give those participation trophies to themselves. Second, Millennials grew up in the era of instant everything — instant messaging, texting, and all forms of social media have made Millennials a cohort that values in-the-moment feedback to ensure they’re on the right path.
  • Asking for flexible workdays = lazy. In some cases, this may be true. In most other cases, they’re just requesting a work schedule that will empower them to complete their tasks efficiently and effectively. They’re used to mobile technology that allows them to work from wherever, whenever. Millennials don’t feel the need to be tethered to a desk or office. Some days, a coffee shop might be the better backdrop to getting their best work done. Other days, the office will be the place to be.
  • Young, unexperienced employee = another Millennial. Just because someone is under 25 doesn’t mean she’s a Millennial. Too often people assume that if the employee is green, lacks experience, and is difficult to manage, then she must be a Millennial. In fact, the oldest Millennials have been in the workplace for well over a decade, with many of them already in leadership positions. That new intern you hired might be a Millennial, or she might be a member of the next generation to hit the workforce, Gen Edge.