6 Stereotypes About Millennials At Work — And The Realities Behind Them

Download Audio
Brad Karsh of JB Training Solutions speaks to a group of generation X'ers at the Hu-Friedy Manufacturing Co. in Chicago. (M. Spencer Green/AP)
Brad Karsh of JB Training Solutions speaks to a group of generation X'ers at the Hu-Friedy Manufacturing Co. in Chicago. (M. Spencer Green/AP)

Something interesting happens when you've been working in a chosen field for a while. One day, you look around and realize, wow. There are a lot of really young people working here.

And professional relationships that reach across generations can be a great thing, but it can also be fraught with misunderstanding and conflict.

For example, think of the ways many baby boomers and generation X'ers frequently label millennials. They're called entitled, coddled by over-bearing parents. They avoid hard work and they're not loyal to their employers.

Like all stereotypes, these are obviously unfair. And yet the fact that they're part of our consciousness suggests we've got a bit of a problem here.


Lauren Stiller Rikleen, author of "You Raised Us, Now Work With Us." She tweets @LaurenRikleen.

6 Stereotypes About Millennials At Work

"They're too entitled"

  • "What we are seeing is a generation that was raised specifically to be self-confident in ways that no other generation has been. Boomer's parents had Dr. Spock. I, as a parent, had a world of experts telling me how I need to raise confident kids. One of the things, however, we didn't pay as much attention to, perhaps, as we should have, is how to raise confident kids who also understand how to be modest and humble with their self-confidence — recognizing that sometimes people are put off by self-confidence." — Lauren Stiller Rikleen

"They're not loyal"

  • "Millennials will be much more transparent. They value transparency, they want to know what the rules are, they want to be able to explain the rules clearly. They believe in accountable leadership, the importance of having passion around your work." — Lauren Stiller Rikleen

"They just want to go home and be with their families"

  • "My hope is that millennials will be change agents in the workplace. The fact that men and women care about work-life integration in a very significant way means they will make in-roads in changing the culture of the workplace around family-friendly policies in a way that women who have been advocating for this for decades have not succeeded in accomplishing." — Lauren Stiller Rikleen

"They don't want to work hard"

  • "I'm 28, there are three people in my office under 30 and a lot of other people who are older than that, I'll say. And they're the ones who go home at 5 p.m. So, I don't know what you mean when you say that we don't work hard, we're not loyal to our employers. The turnover in the over-50 set is a lot higher than it is in the under 30. So, it's not about dedication or anything like that." — Nick from Winchester
  • "We're not all unprofessional, a lot of us work very, very hard to find jobs in a tough economic time and we are equally frustrated with other individuals who are considered millennials who don't take the time to be professional, but that doesn't speak to all of us." — S.J. from Foxborough

"They just want positive feedback"

  • "We have this idea that young people only want to be praised when, in reality, what we're missing is that, for the most part, baby boomers in particular hate giving feedback. You talk to young people in almost any workplace and they'll tell you they're starving for feedback on how they're doing — after an assignment or after a project. So it really isn't about only wanting positive feedback, it's about wanting to learn and grow on the job. And you learn and grow on the job by being told what you did well and not well after you've done something in the workplace." — Lauren Stiller Rikleen
  • "If you're thinking about retention in the workplace, if you're thinking about your own legacy once you move on, you have to be thinking about, 'How do we raise the next generation of leaders?' And you do that by learning how to effectively give feedback. It is a learned skill and it's an important one. Millennials, at the same time, have to learn how to hear the feedback. How to take the constructive criticism and be able to put it to productive use." — Lauren Stiller Rikleen

"They're too plugged in"

  • "We have to think differently about training for younger people today. Things that inherently make sense to us, like, why on earth would you need to be trained on writing a grammatically correct email? Well, because this is a generation that grew up texting in short-hand and there wasn't as much focus on written communications in a formal style. So we need to think about that and start training from day one about, what are the communication expectations in this workplace and how do we put in place a kind of training and assistance that'll make it happen correctly?" — Lauren Stiller Rikleen
  • "A lot of the survey respondents said, 'You know, I spend a lot of my day at the beck and call of senior generations, trying to help them solve their technology problems. And I don't even necessarily mind doing it, but I do mind that I get no credit for it or recognition or appreciation for it. So if I'm going to be tech support, at least please acknowledge that role in some way.'" — Lauren Stiller Rikleen


Forbes: Boomers' Love/Loathe Relationship With Millennials

  • "I do a lot of speaking and training and several years ago, whenever I was doing a presentation, the conversation always came around to people complaining about Millennials in the workplace. One time, I asked whether anybody had Millennial kids and most did."

The Guardian: The Growing Gap Between Millennial Men And Women's Wages

  • "A recent survey shows stark and ominous data that the income gap between genders is growing and young people should react."

This article was originally published on June 25, 2014.

This segment aired on June 25, 2014.


More from Radio Boston

Listen Live