It’s Time Society Stopped Portraying Millennials As The “Lazy” Or “Entitled” Generation

By Debbie Wooldridge

Last year, I conducted an on-the-street poll to uncover whether people’s opinions about Millennials in the workplace had changed any, now that they have been an active part of the workplace for several years. Unbelievably, responses from all non-Millennials still labeled them as “selfish, “entitled” (the most common response), “lazy,” “addicted to technology,” “want instant gratification,” “no work ethic,” “no respect for authority” and “impatient.”

The Millennials I interviewed know exactly the value they bring and provided responses like: “fun,” “go-getters” and “innovative.”

Our oldest Millennials are now 35 and have been in the workforce for more than 15 years and yet are still misunderstood and maligned. Millennials, you still have a huge mountain to climb to overcome the stereotypes. How do you do it? Simple—dispel the myths and demonstrate the realities.

Millennials Are Selfish

Interesting fun fact: in 1976, The New York Times stated the following, “The Now generation has become the ME generation.” And guess what? Millennials weren’t even born yet! This article was referring to our Baby Boomers! So, what this reminds us is, each generation at one time or another has been referred to as selfish. Boomers overcame this just fine. This generation will as well, simply by continuing to demonstrate that one of the key attributes of Millennials is “social responsibility,” which is actually a selfless attribute.

Millennials Feel Entitled

Clearly from the on-the-street poll, this is one of the most commonly held misconceptions. The fact is that Millennials do have a strong desire to immediately make a difference when joining a company. And, thanks to our Baby Boomers exiting the workplace to the tune of 10,000 a day, companies are having to let go of the traditional hierarchy and advance younger employees far more quickly into leadership positions than ever before. And, by and large, Millennials are ready for this. This is a generation that was raised to be self-confident, to be willing to ask for what they want and to be willing to learn as they go. To help overcome the stereotype, Millennials would do well to show they are team players. Connect with seasoned employees to bounce new ideas. Solicit advice and embrace the tribal knowledge from older generations.

Millennials Are Lazy

The truth is that 80% of Millennials surveyed in a 2016 poll, conducted by ttcInnovations, say that no matter the method, they try to do their job as well as possible. Millennials view time as currency not to be wasted. They are interested in working as efficiently and effectively as they can and that may mean they don’t see the need to spend six hours on a task that can be done in four. This allows them to finish the task at hand and achieve the work/life balance that they value so dearly. Overcoming this stereotype is quite easy. Older generations need to understand that Millennials place a strong emphasis on work/life balance. That balance comes before career progression. They want to work hard at work so that they can take the time they need to put emphasis on other areas of their life. Believe it or not, this is the same desire of most Gen Xers and Boomers as well; they just aren’t as vocal about it.

Millennials Are Addicted to Technology

Millennials are the first generation that is truly digitally native. They grew up in a world of computers in most homes and schools, cell phones and tablets in hand. They don’t really know of a world without technology. So, it isn’t necessarily an addition, but rather an extension of who they are. Technology is a tool. It is instant access to a world of information. Have a question about the right way to cook spaghetti squash? No problem—grab your phone and YouTube it.

The same applies at work. The abundance of technology is enabling all generations to get work done more efficiently than ever before. Just look around your office; my guess is that you will find your Boomers and Gen Xers on their phones just as often as your Millennials! One great way to overcome this stereotype is help your company identify ways to increase everyone’s productivity and increase sales by incorporating technology in all phases of the business.

Millennials Need Instant Gratification

The Millennial generation is accustomed to having questions answered quickly, acting on that knowledge immediately and receiving feedback on demand. While this may initially appear to be a bad trait, it’s actually quite the opposite. Instead of looking at Millennials’ desire for feedback as a problem, embrace Millennial employees who want frequent guidance so they can adjust, pivot and shift what they are doing, and make progress.

Millennials Have No Work Ethic

While it is true that Millennials have a self-centered work ethic, this does not mean they have no work ethic. They value work/life integration, so their motivations may be different. They will work hard but when they are done, they’d like the time off and away from work. Millennials crave collaboration at work, but more importantly, want extended networks and communities beyond their employer. This may be interpreted by other generations as no work ethic, simply because their work isn’t the main focus of their life. Millennials typically only value work insofar as it creates the results, so helping older generations understand that results are more important than the time spent completing the task may be the ticket to best overcome this stereotype.

Millennials Have No Respect for Authority

Perhaps on the surface this may appear true. However, do not confuse a resistance to the answer “because we’ve always done it that way” as a lack of respect for authority. They are not the same. Millennials have a true desire to understand “why.” Why does it make sense to do something just this one way? Why does my manager’s opinion matter more than mine if she is wrong? Why not try something different? Embrace this true and honest thirst for understanding for what it really is—forward-thinking. We want our next company leaders to have passion, intelligence and vision. We don’t want or need leaders who can’t comfortably ask “why.”

While Millennials may seem very different from other generations, we would do well to remember the words of Gloria Steinem, “We need to remember across generations that there is as much to learn as there is to teach.” I’m excited to continue to see what our Millennials will teach us.

If you’re interested in learning more about the Millennial generation, I invite you to take a look inside my book Unleashing the Intrapreneur, Changing the Face of Corporate America (download a free chapter here) and the companion book, The Manager’s Guide to Unleashing the Intrapreneur (launching October 2017). I may be a bit biased but I believe these books are a great addition to your library if you’re truly looking to understand how Millennials see the world differently and what you can do to collaborate successfully with them in the workplace.





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