Millennial Myths: Really, They Are No Different Than Other Generations

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Is anyone else tired of hearing the myths about Millennials in the workplace (entitled, need constant praise and reassurance, difficult to manage)?

I know I am. That’s why I was pleased to see this recently in the Harvard Business Review:

Millennials are entitled, disloyal, and lazy. And they expect things to come easily to them. Sound familiar? These are common beliefs that many managers hold.

But are they true? Not really. Millennials, it turns out, aren’t nearly as entitled as we make them out to be. In fact, most are ambitious, and look to make a big impact in their careers right from the start. But managers can sometimes misconstrue this as entitlement.

The same goes for disloyalty. While it’s true that Millennials tend to jump ship earlier than past generations, they usually do so because the road to promotion at their current company isn’t so clear-cut. So can you really blame them? Perhaps it’s time to change our thinking, and to cut Millennials some slack.”

Isn’t every new generation like this?

The title of that article is Millennials Aren’t Entitled; They’re Just Misunderstood. I argue that’s true for every generation when they were young and new in the workplace.

I’m sure Boomer managers said that about me as a young Gen X employee. And I’m just as sure their “Silent Generation” managers said that about them in turn.

Every generation brings not just a new perspective on work, but new ideas and methods for getting that work done. Millennial employees have never lived a day without technology being a critical component of how they see and interact with the world around them. They bring that ethos to the workplace, and I am grateful for it.

New perspectives bring innovative thinking and new approaches. That’s what constantly pushes us all forward.

It is up to managers to bring them along

As to being entitled, disloyal, needing constant recognition and all the rest, I think we need to change the lens through which we view these behaviors. This isn’t generational behavior, it’s stage of life behavior. I think nearly all of us, if we’re honest with ourselves, will admit that when we were new in the workplace we, too, wanted constant feedback.

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Young employees new to the workplace don’t have historical context to know if what they’re doing is right, worthwhile and useful to others. That’s why they seek recognition and feedback. And if they don’t think they’re efforts are useful, they will move on to find somewhere they genuinely believe they can contribute.

That means it is on us as managers and leaders to give them the direction, feedback and praise they need. And yes – that constant recognition is not just necessary, but good. When done right, it gives employees (of every generation) the detailed information they need about the greater impact and meaning of their work.

How do you feel about Millennials in the workplace?

You can find more from Derek Irvine on his Recognize This! blog.

Derek Irvine is senior vice president of client strategy and consulting at Workhuman, where he leads the company’s consulting and analytics divisions. His writing is regularly featured across major HR publications, including HR Magazine, Human Resource Executive, HR Zone, and Workspan.

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