Millennials Are Twice As Likely As Anyone Else to Lie About Being Fired — and It Says a Lot About This Generation

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By Rachel Sugar

LinkedIn recently released the report "New Norms @Work," designed to shed light on the workplace attitudes of the ever-elusive millennial.

One finding stood out. According to the data, collected from 1,000 US-based full-time employees, people ages 25 to 34 were much less likely to admit having been fired from a previous job than older workers.

It's not that previous generations are pathologically honest — on the contrary, 56% of all workers say that if they'd been fired, they would "work to hide this information" from prospective employers.But millennials were particularly secretive about their less-than-stellar pasts: A full 70% say they'd go out of their way to bury having been let go.

And millennials are especially likely to try to reframe their untimely departures: Of workers ages 25 to 34, 31.5% say they'd "make it look like they have left on their own accord," compared to 16.1% of workers 35 and older.

This could be further evidence that millennials are entitled brats who believe they can rewrite history to suit their millennial whims. But more likely, there's something else going on: It's not that millennials are somehow morally bankrupt compared to previous generations — it's that millennials genuinely see themselves (and their employers) differently.

For LinkedIn's career expert Catherine Fisher, it comes down to image. "Millennials are very focused on managing their professional brand," she tells Business Insider. Being fired is taboo — and off-brand.

Dan Schawbel, a workplace expert who's written widely on changing attitudes around employment, credits technology for that shift.

"You don't see them posting negative status updates on Facebook, Twitter, or Instagram," he points out. Younger candidates aren't the only ones artfully shaping their work histories — everyone does that, and for good reason — but millennials, he says, "take this to the next level by guarding their professional and personal image online, covering up anything bad that's ever happened to them."

Millennials may be notorious for oversharing, but it's a carefully curated kind of oversharing — and that careful curation carries over into how millennials present themselves to potential employers.

They're not necessarily wrong to tread carefully. Many millennial workers were hit hard by the recession. As a result, "millennials feel that they must do whatever it takes to compete," says Karen Myers, an associate professor of communications at UC-Santa Barbara. Through that lens, image consciousness starts to feel less like narcissism and more like survival.

But there's another factor that may offer even more insight into the murky depths of the millennial psyche: More than their older colleagues, millennials value organizational "fit."

"They see [having been fired] as a two-sided issue," Myers says, "and may think that there were many reasons for poor job performance or other behaviors that led to their being fired." They don't label it as "firing" because they don't see it that way. At least from their perspective, "it may have been a lack of fit and they would have quit soon anyway." It's not a devastating decree; it's a mutual breakup. "Overall," says Myers, "they just don't see things as black and white."

Understanding why younger workers behave the way they do is only half the story. Here's the other question: Are millennials wrong not to disclose?

The short answer: Not exactly.

Nobody is arguing that outright lying is great and we should all do more of it, but "it's a personal choice if someone wants to disclose the reason they left a previous job," Fisher says. "If asked point blank, one can say that it wasn't the right fit for them or the company, and then focus on their accomplishments in the role."
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