Top 10 Millennial Stereotypes that are commonly misinterpreted – Part 2

6. Being Young & Inexperienced

Many managers have to restrain from dismissing Millennials as a bunch of kids playing ‘office’. This is hardly a new phenomenon. Everyone likes to poke fun at the newbie, and everyone got their share of teasing when they started working. However, it’s time to shift that mindset

  • They aren’t kids anymore. Sure, younger Millennials are still in their early and mid-20s, but leading edge Millennials are in their mid-30s. Many Millennials already have kids of their own. Yet somehow, since the term “Millennial” entered the daily vernacular of popular media, it’s been used to reference all young people. That’s simply not accurate. As a reminder, Millennials are born between 1980 and 1995 and in many cases already, they aren’t the youngest generation at the office.

7. Fearing Going Solo

Millennials are an inherently collaborative generation. So this stereotype is a trickier one to break down. But there is a huge difference in the subtleties between a “haven’t had to”, “don’t like to”, or “don’t see value” in doing things solo.

  • Haven’t had to: Millennials are a collaborative bunch. They grew up truly believing that two heads are better than one and there there is no “i” in “team”. They played team sports, completed group projects, and were often raised in homes where democracy ruled. It’s important to realise that as their manager, when you ask them to do something solo and you’re met with hesitation, they aren’t stunned by your request; they just haven’t done it that often. It doesn’t mean they can’t, but it may mean they need some extra coaching before they’re comfortable doing it alone.
  • Don’t like to: Millennials generally prefer working in teams for all the reasons mentioned earlier. This generation helped bring about the era of open floor plans and group ideation sessions. There will be times when Millennials need to get work done independently – a fact they can and do understand. But if working in teams is that they prefer and there’s no good reason not to, why stop them? Just be sure they’re there to work, not socialise.
  • Don’t see value: As a while, Millennials believe that collaboration fosters better results. They crowdsource their friends, brainstorm with colleagues, and use the almighty Google in the hopes of building consensus, comparing progress, and delivering a stronger result. Two heads are better than one, but 20 heads are better than two.

This could very well be a life stage/age thing. In the grand scheme of things, younger Millennials are still relatively new to the workforce. To them, it’s comforting to have a team to back you up when you’re green. On the flip side, if you work with a lot of Early Millennials, they’ll likely profess their love of working alone and meetings-free. As a manager, gauge appropriately.

8. Thinking they’re all the same.

For a group as collaborative and socially-linked as Millennials, you’d think they’d all be quite similar. While they do share some overarching traits, one of the most offensive things you can say to a Millennial is “You’re all the same”. This is one of the hazards of the generations topic – the risk of putting every member of a generation into a box without leaving room for differences among them.

9. Having No Ambition

On one corner, you have people who love to accuse Millennials of not being ambitious and in the other, you have managers who are constantly complaining that Millennials are trying to race to the top of the ladder in three years.

So which is the truth? Well, Both.

Sure sometimes Millennials are looking for the reward for just doing the regular duties. As their manager, seek clarity via transparency. Show them the direct steps it takes to get where they want to be. If they balk at the road ahead, you’ve a found a tool for weeding out those who probably aren’t the best fit for your workplace.

The other thing to keep in mind is that what ambition looked like for you and your generation may look vastly different to a Millennial. In some industries, the only ambition recognised is the one-track kind: one career, one job, and one goal, which is probably either CEO or retirement.

For Millennials, it’s not that straightforward. A Millennial’s goal may be landing her dream job, making more money, making an impact, having flexibility, taking a mid-career break to travel, or just experiencing different workplaces and fields. These goals may not be attainable at one position, let alone three or four. Before you judge how ambitious your Millennial is, be sure you aren’t using only your own personal definition of the word.

10. Relying on Mom and Dad for Everything

This generation is notoriously close with Mom and Dad. They were raised in the self esteem movement and often name their parents as their greatest heroes and influencers. Many Millennials are still on their parents’ phone and insurance plans.

And it doesn’t stop there – parents are following their Millennial kids into the workplace as well. I’ve heard stories of parentings coordinating their kid’s interviews, wanting to attend their review sessions, and calling their managers to hear how their kid is faring at work.

All this is to say that you aren’t imagining things. Parents are showing up in the workplace in new, surprising and frustrating ways. So what can you do?

  • Draw the line – If Millennials involve their parents at work in a way you aren’t comfortable with, tell them. Explain why you aren’t comfortable with it and that you expect it to stop. Don’t assume Millennials know your policies here and definitely don’t assume that because you didn’t need to be told that, they don’t either. And don’t assume Millennials know. Sometimes Mom and Dad step in unannounced and without permission
  • Realise that there is a difference between relying on Mom and Dad and tapping into them – Millennials don’t see their parents as crutches but coaches. They’re looking for guidance and comfort, not handouts and favours. Is that really so different than seeing a career coach or speaking with a friend? Parents of Millennials are likely to give sound advice coming from decades of experience, work and otherwise. As a manager, see parents as allies, not enemies.

That’s it. 10 stereotypes to avoid while working with Millennials. I hope that’s been useful in changing the way we conceptualise Millennials. 

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