10 Absurd Myths About Millennial Workers
Work + Life Balance

10 Absurd Myths About Millennial Workers

by Kaitlin King
March 08, 2016

GENERATIONAL TYPECASTING IS JUST ABOUT AS SAFE AS ANY OTHER TYPE OF STEREOTYPING. 

In other words, it’s not. We’ve all heard that millennials are lazy, entitled, obnoxious, and just simply the worst (even Google says it). But as we move past the breaking news and overgeneralizations, we find a more nuanced narrative about the fastest growing workforce population.

In the interest of optimizing where our careers will go, maybe we shouldn’t jump to conclusions about the people we might hire or the ones vying against us for open positions. After all, it’s the surprises that make or break you. 

What you can count on as false:

HATING MILLENNIALS IS A NEW THING 

"The children now love luxury. They have bad manners, contempt for authority; they show disrespect for elder and love chatter in place of exercise."

Think this quote comes from some recent article about why millennials are the worst generation? Nope. It’s Socrates talking about a younger generation around 400 B.C.

The caricature of someone older complaining about youth certainly runs rampant in American sitcoms, but we’re definitely not touching on anything new. You shouldn’t feel surprised or bad about being the new kid getting all the bad press (be honest, you’ve probably cracked some jokes of your own about 13-year-old Snapchatters, i.e. ‘Gen Z’). It’s just a trope—meaning it’s absolutely meaningless when it comes to how you handle your workday.

"The children now love luxury. They have bad manners, contempt for authority; they show disrespect for elder and love chatter in place of exercise." 

MILLENNIALS ARE 20-SOMETHINGS

At the risk of stating the obvious, remember that most definitions consider millennials anyone born between 1980 and 2000, making the top of the grade 36 years old. Many are married (and have been for 10+ years), many have at least one child (plenty have 2 or 3), and many are approaching their prime height of their careers. A 20-year span between the youngest and oldest members of this group is yet another reason lumping everyone in one broad category can be problematic.

MILLENNIALS ARE DISTURBINGLY TECH SAVVY

Sure, we grew up “digital natives” while previous generations had to learn and adapt to technological advances. But this doesn’t mean that we know all technologies, software, and platforms out there. {click to tweet} Advancements are moving at the speed of light, and just because we grew up with computers and smart phones, doesn’t mean we can help everyone with their tech problems. Like so many other employees, we figure it out when we have to. “Millennial” is not a synonym for “tech support.”

MILLENNIALS LOVE TECHNOLOGY

Along the same lines, did you know there are a significant number of young people who choose not to have a smart phone? Not to use social media? Not to own a tablet? There’s a growing number of millennial-run movements celebrating analog—a watch company highlighting old-school artistry, a magazine flourishing in print-only availability, and businesses centered on in-person activities. There are even anti-online-dating movements.

MILLENNIALS PREFER TO HANG OUT WITH OTHER MILLENNIALS

I was recently speaking to two friends who live in San Francisco: one who works at an investment firm, and the other who works at a tech startup. My finance friend was jokingly describing her teammates as “dorky dad” and “Stanford class of 1983,” when my startup friend responded excitedly, “Wow! You have a real-life, adult workplace!” Her main complaint with the startup job was that everyone was young and no one had the tenure and experience she was seeking for guidance. Like other generations before us, 75% of millennials want to work alongside older, wiser mentors and colleagues. {click to tweet}

More than half of the 1,000 millennials polled said they would prefer to chat in person with their coworkers.

MILLENNIALS DON’T CARE MUCH ABOUT HEALTHCARE

Wrong. In fact, in a recent Bentley University study, when choosing between otherwise equal jobs, 96% said the healthcare benefits would be the tie breaker between two positions.

MILLENNIALS ONLY WANT TO WORK FROM HOME

Who doesn’t enjoy a change of scenery in their work day? The possibility of taking a call from the beach? The ability to get work done without the strains of a commute? It’s not just millennials. Pop work culture has transitioned to a fascination with the romantic idea of a flexible workday, and there’s lots great that's come out of that. But tons of us still want the benefit of face-to-face interaction. Proof in point: in the same research from Bentley University, more than half of the 1,000 millennials polled said they would prefer to chat in person with their coworkers.

MILLENNIALS SPEND ALL THEIR TIME ON SOCIAL

Actually, 66% of millennials said they didn’t mind workplace bans on social media sites (Bentley University). Facebook, Twitter and Instagram can be a distraction for anyone, and millennials are just as prone to feeling sucked in and consequently horrified at the time spent perusing the sites. Ultimately, because many millennials are passionate about doing work that creates a positive impact, self-indulgent selfies and live tweeting brunch falls short of that purpose. That being said, they do recognize the power and implications of social media. Those platforms reach their full potential when they create a feeling of community and inspire people to real-life action—and that’s actually why the majority of millennials hang out on these platforms in the first place. 

MILLENNIALS ARE SELF-ABSORBED 

Aren’t we all?

Her main complaint with the startup job was that everyone was young and no one had the tenure and experience she was seeking for guidance. 

MILLENNIALS ARE DIFFERENT FROM ANY OTHER GENERATION THAT’S COME BEFORE

Actually, we’re not. Much of the data around millennials points to some interesting trends, but they’re actually just common behaviors of new, young workers. As the Economist summarizes, “Young people in every generation change jobs more frequently than older people because they are looking for the right one. Young people also look for feedback because they are still learning the ropes.”

What researchers have called out as “distinct” features of our generation are mostly just truths about young people trying to figure their careers out. 

There’s ultimately one overwhelmingly common assessment of millennials that few dispute: we have conviction. {click to tweet} Specifically, we believe we can make the world better through our work, and will do just about anything (quit our jobs, start a company, travel the world) to get there. We have previous generations to thank for this, the people who paved the way and encouraged us to try. Really, whatever we achieve as we pursue our various career paths, we can thank past generations for inspiring us.

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Do you agree/ disagree with the rep millenials have been given? What's the most important thing people don't mention?