If you’ve read any of my previous posts, you know I am a Gen X’er. I work in a high tech field with Millennials, and one of my kids is a Millennial. While I see all the “selfies” and questionable behavior of younger people in the news, the reoccurring theme of “lazy, entitled” Millennials is really aggravating to me.

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My personal experience with late teens and 20-somethings has been overwhelmingly positive. I have family members who work like crazy to get college scholarships or beg to work more hours at a minimum wage job to pay for college. I have work peers who work long hours but have such enthusiasm for tackling the many challenges of corporate life.

What fascinates me is, 20 years ago as a young new hire, I was constantly “teased” for being a Gen X’er. Interestingly, some of the traits used to describe Millennials are the exact traits my older peers in the 90’s ascribed to me. They joked I was selfish and entitled. It took me seven years to pay for and complete my BFA degree. I wasn’t selfish, and I certainly wasn’t afraid of hard work. So while I tried to ignore the hurtful comments, they bothered me just the same.

My Millennial peers are not lazy or entitled. In fact, they are some of the most positive, enthusiastic people I’ve worked with. Couple that with the truly unique ideas and perspectives they bring to the table and I dare say they inspire me to look at problems and issues differently. With my experience (and openness to change!), we’re finding really cool new ways to do things.

Which leads me to one last question for any Boomers who happen to read this post. Were you treated disparagingly when you first began your careers? Is every generation destined to have to overcome stereotypes?

This post originally appeared on TheXMFiles. Image source: tusconyoungprofessionals.com

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  1. Toni Ravelo

    Thank you!!!!! Not all millennials are “lazy and entitled” it’s disheartening to be labeled this based on few bad experiences.

    In general whether some one is a millennial or not, there are people from all ages that can sometimes act “lazy and entitled” it’s not just millennials.

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    1. Carolyn Brock Post author

      You are welcome! In a perfect world we wouldn’t label people or groups, but even if you choose to refrain from doing so, others still will. I wrote this in response to some disparaging comments I’ve heard over the years – some directed at me and some directed at others. I wanted to share my perspective on how we need to take the time to get to know each other before making assumptions.

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  2. Gretchen Lindquist

    Carolyn,

    I am one of the non-Luddite Boomers who follows this space, and no, I do not recall being disparaged as a young person new to the business world. Then again, I knew my place, was thankful for an entry-level position, and did not expect a six-figure income and an office with a window the first year out of grad school during a recession (yes, we had one of those in the 80s, too), as is sometimes heard these days.

    I can imagine you are indeed tired of those generalizations; I, too, am tired of them, particularly of hearing that “all” Boomers do not know how to use technology and social media. These memes certainly do not apply to everyone, but generally there *is* a kernel of truth. If, and only if, the shoe fits….

    Cheers,

    Gretchen

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    1. Carolyn Brock Post author

      Thanks Gretchen. I have a theory about Boomers and technology. I think it has nothing to do with “know how” and everything to do with choice. My mother doesn’t tweet, but she has the most complicated digital camera I’ve ever seen. We all make choices about which technology to embrace. We simply choose the technology and platforms that are relevant to us, and each generation shares similar behavior (always with exceptions, of course!).

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    2. Cory Coley-Christakos

      Gretchen – from a fellow non-Luddite Boomer (or Xer, depending on the definition used) I feel like I could have written the exact same reply! 

      Carolyn – thanks for the post and for getting this great conversation started. You, and the Future of Work forum this week, inspired me to write a few posts on generational intelligence and employee engagement – with a subtle (or perhaps not so subtle) plea to take a holistic view rather than the singular focus on our Millennials 🙂

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  3. Schalk Viljoen

    I would agree that every generation have to deal with being stereotyped … I remember that I could not WAIT to turn 30 so that I would finally get the recognition I felt deserved for my achievements, but which were withheld because of my age.

    Now I realize that the best counteraction to being stereotyped is to ‘smile and nod’ (favourite saying of my sister who IS a millenial) and out perform the person who is trying to pigeonhole you.

    There should be a culture of mutual respect in an organization, recognizing the value of a mukti-generational environment.

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    1. Carolyn Brock Post author

      Indeed Schalk. I would argue that you and I come from very different backgrounds, but in the years we worked together, we made a fine team. It’s not about always agreeing – sometimes we had to agree to disagree – but we must always show respect.

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  4. Stephen Johannes

    Honestly this problem is caused by analysts and those subscribing to those analysts that have been hyping a viewpoint that millennials are more self-centered and demanding than previous generations.  It’s also the same group that called previous generation “slackers”.

    The real solution would be for all of use to refuse to squeezed into some marketing label and instead being hopefully good, productive and rational members of society in our own way that do not fit into the narrow buckets defined by people looking for easier way to sell.

    I definitely agree that we need to stop judging people based on groups and instead by the merit of their character.  However this is more general problem than age.

    Take care,

    Stephen

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    1. Carolyn Brock Post author

      This is a tough topic. Sometimes generalizations help us understand how other people think (in general!). But you are right, Stephen, individual character trumps any generalization.

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      1. Stephen Johannes

        The problem with generalizations is that you make assumptions.  There is a saying that when you assume <fill in the blank here>.  That being said all these generational categories are once again a tool to “divide/conquer” and sell products to people.  These categories then turn wrongly into sterotypes that are no longer based on “facts”, but rather emotion.

        My challenge back is perhaps SAP needs to lead by example and stop bringing up all this generational analysis (divide and conquer) as a good practice and instead offer an alternative way to gain insights into customer buying perhaps that doesn’t enforce of the creation of negative stereotypes.

        Take care,

        Stephen

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