Millennials: Let Them Rebel Against the Stereotype

Business owners accuse Millennials of being lazy, too focused on money, and worried about “me, me, me,” while Millennials challenge the idea of a 9-to-5 job, stability, and hierarchy in the workplace. This back-and-forth debate seems to never end.

What’s even more interesting is that the accusers — Baby Boomers — were the first ones to be called the “Me Generation,” with managers lamenting the fact that they never cut their hair and were seemingly lazy. They were the first “rebels” in the modern workforce. Could Millennials be a reminder of this forgotten attitude?

Managers have stereotyped this generation with enough negative labels, so to understand what truly drives this part of the workforce, we need to debunk the stereotypes and figure out what Millennials really want — and why. They are, after all, the future of our companies.

Understand the Stereotypes

Millennials make no secret about wanting to earn big salaries. Do you know why? They grew up during a time when technology rapidly changed their parents’ careers and lives — and not always for the better. As most industries were forced to adopt new technologies, many of them became obsolete, erasing thousands of jobs. For Millennials, making a lot of money isn’t about retirement; it’s about living life to the fullest today in case they’re unemployed tomorrow. Job security is a myth for this generation.

They’re often accused of not having company loyalty. But in a world where layoffs are common, Millennials don’t view loyalty the way older generations do. They want to work where they’re appreciated and have no interest in being a cog in the corporate wheel. If a company doesn’t recognize their skills and enthusiasm, they’re not afraid to look for one that will.

Millennials are also seen as demanding and lazy. They’re brash. They want managers to earn their respect, not the other way around. But they were raised by parents who gave them everything, so they expect everything as adults. It’s this expectation driving so many Millennials to work hard, stay late, and jump through hoops to get the job done. They do it for money, prestige, and the satisfaction of accomplishing their goals. They want success, and they go after it. Not exactly the definition of lazy, is it?

Unique Skills for the Workplace

Managers might still be questioning how Millennials could be seen as assets to their companies, but this generation has a unique mindset and set of skills that make them essential to employers.

  • Desperation: Oddly, desperation is their greatest asset. Finding employment in a market where job seekers outnumber available positions has created a sense of urgency and ingenuity in this generation. The technology that eliminated jobs is what they now use to make connections to find their next position. They’re fast learners, due to constant changes in technology, and will go above and beyond to gain experience and a springboard into their dream career. They might fail, but they aren’t afraid to try.
  • Tech-Savvy: Growing up during the explosion of high-speed Internet, Millennials learned to use it to their advantage. Millennials are a great choice for companies looking to hire people who know their way around the digital world.
  • Achievement-Oriented: As kids, they received praise and rewards just for participating. As a result, they want careers with immediate, achievable goals and great job titles; this gives them standing among their peers and families and boosts their self-esteem. While Baby Boomers think of their careers as part of their identities, Millennials use their careers to fund their lifestyles beyond the office. So time off, money, and better job titles — things that increase their quality of life — are valued incentives they work hard to attain.
  • Team-Aligned: This generation was involved in team sports, where the emphasis was on participating, not winning. In the workplace, they’re experts at applying team-building concepts to project management and working successfully with others to achieve common goals.

How Millennials Can Prove Everyone Wrong

While managers need to change their view of this up-and-coming generation, Millennials should also work to establish a new reputation for themselves in the workplace. Respect for different attitudes toward work is key to forming relationships with co-workers. Millennials need to work with people across generations and should showcase their openness to new and old ideas and processes. A focus on innovation and enhancing the status quo shouldn’t replace procedures that work.

Millennials have a lot to offer employers. Looking at work from their perspective can give you positive insights into their values, expectations, and decision-making. If managers see this generation for something other than its perceived liabilities, then Millennials will have the opportunity to rebel against any stereotype.


Matthew Gordon is President and CEO of The Gordon Group, a holding company that primarily manages GraduationSource and Avanti Systems USA. Gordon strives to foster positive corporate culture and empower young minds.

Views: 412

Comment by Keith D. Halperin on October 31, 2013 at 1:34pm

Thanks, Matthew. IMHO, characterizing a group of 80+ million people ( on the basis of loosely-defined years of birth makes only slightly more sense than characterizing people by the month they're born in: aka, "astrology". I'm not opposed to classifying people (in fact I love it), but I think doing it by cohort is only marginally useful., You can do much better by classifying people by their zipcode (,,



Keith "Show the Less Fuzzy Data" Halperin






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