5 Workplace Stereotypes About Millennials That Aren't True
If you're over the age of 30, you've probably witnessed your share of complaining and eye rolling about millennial workers: They're entitled and expect to get great jobs without paying their dues; they don't understand how office hierarchy works; they're high-maintenance; they're job hoppers – the list goes on and on.
And if you're under 30, you've probably heard these stereotypes about your own generation and cringed to think that you might be getting labeled that way.
In reality, while there are certainly differences between every generation, most stereotypes that get lobbed at millennial employees just aren't true. Here are the five of the biggest stereotypes, and why you shouldn't believe them:1. Millennials are entitled and don't want to pay their dues. On the contrary, this generation graduated into one of the worst job markets in recent history. They have staggering student loan debt for degrees that were supposed to give them job security but didn't, and many studies show that their lifetime earnings will never equal that of their parents.
Adding injury to insult, many millennials have been unemployed or underemployed since graduating and now must compete against waves of more recent graduates whose skills seem fresher.
As for paying dues? Most of them are desperate to pay their dues, if only someone would let them.
2. Millennials need special hand-holding at work and are high-maintenance. We're told that millennials want a constant stream of praise, that they break under criticism and that they require more guidance than generations before them. The reality? They're far from the first generation to need some adjusting when transitioning into the workforce, and they're not the first to find the work world harsher than expected after the more nurturing approach of academia. Having a learning curve when it comes to figuring out how workplaces work is pretty normal; it was true of 20-somethings several decades ago, too.
3. All millennials are great at social media. It's easy to think that because they grew up with Facebook, Instagram and Twitter, all millennials are great with technology and social media. It can be easy for managers to think that their millennial hires would do a good job managing the company's Twitter strategy. Perhaps they will, but making those assignments based on age is as wrongheaded as making them based on, say, what cars the employees drive or where they grew up.
Even millennials who are truly skilled at social media often won't have the maturity or judgment to figure out the best content to use, how to frame it, how to handle sticky dynamics with misbehaving followers and other higher-level issues. Millennials are no more inherently equipped to excel at your social media work than they are at your public relations or accounting work. They need training.
4. Millennials are job hoppers. Much has been written about milllennials' alleged propensity for job hopping. They won't stay at any one job for very long, we're told. And having seen waves of layoffs affect their parents and older siblings, they don't feel any loyalty to their employers or expect much loyalty in return.
However, the reality doesn't back that up at all. In fact, a recent report from Oxford Economics found that millennials are no more likely than non-millennials to leave their jobs in the next six months.
5. Because millennials grew up with the Internet and social media, they have no concept of privacy. On the contrary, the majority of millennials don't splash their private lives all over social media, according to a 2014 study from Communispace and Google Consumer Surveys. The survey found that half of millennials say they keep the majority of their "real" selves private, with nearly one-fifth saying that none of their real selves is reflected in social media.
It's certainly true that many millennials could use some coaching about how to present a professional image online, but that would be true of any new adult coming of age post-Internet. It's not specific to this generation; it's about being young and learning professional norms for the first time – and that's something every generation before them has gone through in one form or the other.
Alison Green writes the popular Ask a Manager blog, where she dispenses advice on career, job search and management issues. She's the author of "How to Get a Job: Secrets of a Hiring Manager," co-author of "Managing to Change the World: The Nonprofit Manager's Guide to Getting Results" and the former chief of staff of a successful nonprofit organization, where she oversaw day-to-day staff management.