First of all, the disclosure. I do not pretend to know more about millennials than you do. In fact, I am not a fan of those self-nominated millennial whisperers. You know the ones. They like to show you how hip and young thinking they are by telling you that they and only they know how millennials think and they and only they can translate that thinking for you.
I dislike stereotypes and I really dislike categorizing human beings and tossing them all in the same pot.
But like anything else, like any other time I want to learn more about a topic I read about it. I learn about it. I find a book and study the topic. I recently read and reviewed a book by a very well versed and admirable young woman who comes from the age group we have called millennials. And I thought who better to learn from than the author of the book titled The Millennial Myth: Transforming Misunderstanding into Workplace Breakthroughs, by Crystal Kadakia.
This is not a book review. I have already done that. Rather by using this book as a source I will compare and explain (by using Ms. Kadakia’s writing) what the misconceptions some people have about millennials are and what they really are, based on Ms. Kadakia’s first hand knowledge. By the way it would not hurt if you bought and read her book yourself.
First of all, if we want to categorize an age group let’s be exact: Millennials are people born between 1981 and 1996. And just to make sure we are not confusing them with Generation Z, that generation is made up of people born from 1996 to the present.
Okay let’s get started. For the sake of space, I will tackle two of the most prevalent misconceptions.
Misconception #1: Millennials are Lazy
They are distracted, they are always on their phones and frankly they don’t want to work. How many times have we all heard someone say those things?
Actually, they are not lazy, they just don’t like to be confined to someone’s definition of what the workday is. They like flexible hours. They like to work in their own way and on their time. The recent epidemic has taught us that in many ways people who work independently are much more productive. Personally, as we move from the industrial era to the intelligence era, I feel that people who work with their minds are much more productive when they have a flexible schedule. Companies like Microsoft are already embracing worker independence, letting them choose their own works spaces and hours of work. I think we should consider this the beginning of the independent work era.
Do we measure results by the number of hours worked? The smarter the worker, the faster she can get things done. Should she be penalized for that?
What we call laziness is actually productiveness redefined.
Misconception #2: Millennials are Entitled
They think they deserve everything without working for it.
“What we call entitled is actually entrepreneurial. Now more than ever, young people are realizing that the future is theirs to create, not something that will simply happen to them.” Ferreira and Kleinart
Our generation says: “You should just be happy to have a job. A job is something that is given to you and not everyone has the opportunity to have one.”
The Millennial says: “I will take jobs with lower pay because I am interested in experiences that grow me and a life that is fulfilling. I’m not as interested in materialistic things as the older generation because it’s been said since I was a kid that money does not make you happy.”
The Millennials are more confident. They understand their own value in whatever position they hold. In short, they are not beholden to the company or their bosses. They had witnessed their parents, and grandparents, be tremendously loyal to their companies only to be let go during recessions. They have come to realize that loyalty to the company is not repaid by loyalty to the employee and they are wary of being too dependent on one company.
The Millennials have grown up at a time influenced by Tom Peter’s telling everyone to be their own corporation. To be “Becky Incorporated” or “Damon Incorporated.” To be independent and make sure that they have more than one revenue stream.
This is why during recruiting they are not afraid to negotiate a better salary.
When they have a job, they often ask for more challenging work, or show poor performance in doing routine tasks.
They ask for more flexible hours.
They don’t pay much attention to the chain of command. Even having the audacity to ask a VP to lunch…the audacity!
And they want to have an understanding of the big picture by asking, “Why are we doing it this way? Or “How does this connect with the mission?”
Yes, they are different from us. They are more focused on the meaning of work. They want to make a difference in the world, not just do a job.
But we have to consider this as we head out the door. They do represent the future and I think it will be a better one because of the way they are. It’s only common sense.