In defence of stereotyped Millennials

Written by Jim Walsh

For the past number of years the world of work has been debating the new generation that has entered the workforce. They are called the Millennials or Generation Y, those born since 1982. They are a growing percentage of the total work population and over the next five years will probably become the largest generation at work.

Much of what has been written about Millennials has not been positive. They have been described as spoiled, lazy, narcissistically addicted to selfies and as the entitlement generation who are hard to manage.

A recent article in the Irish Daily Mail (taken from the UK edition) said, “increasing numbers of bosses claim ‘Millennials’ are a nightmare to employ, with 63 per cent reporting that 20-somethings and those in their early 30s require more guidance than any other age group, as well as displaying a ‘strong sense of entitlement’ and poor ‘decision-making skills’. So pronounced are these characteristics that the workplace is having to adapt to accommodate this new generation.”

On a surface level it is easy to nod and agree.

But in reality these views are based on attributes demonstrated by some of that generation, not all. Every generation has been labeled or stereotyped negatively in some form or other.

Sure Millennials can be described as demanding, confident, competitive, self-determined, motivated and seeking to fast-track their careers. While often these particular characteristics are used in a negative context they can also be positive attributes. It is clear that some Millennials fail to appreciate that in most workplace circumstances these attributes have to be tempered by the need to work as part of a team.

Seeking and achieving are very different. From the vantage point of being long past the millennial age I can appreciate and would applaud and encourage people who are driven and want to succeed.  That is not meant to be patronising. The reality is that in today’s world the best workplaces are those which have diversity and a culture where people can develop and learn from each other.

The savvy Millennials know that achieving their goals is not simply demanding what they want.  Achievement can come by accepting that your peers, managers or those that report to you also have strong opinions and these need to be listened to.

At the end of the Mail article a self-proclaimed model for Millennials Samantha Perry, did her peers no favours.  She said: ‘We are the future. Perhaps the world needs to adapt and accept what we have to offer.’

Not all Millennials expect the world to adapt to accommodate them. Those that do prove that they have a lot to learn.

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