the real facts behind 5 myths about millennial workers

There’s a lot of talk about what Millennials have to offer in the workforce. You’ve probably heard a few unflattering assumptions, such as ‘Millennials are lazy’ or ‘Millennials aren’t cut out to be managers.’ However, when we take a look at the facts, a very different picture is painted. Here are a few commonly perpetuated myths about Millennials, debunked.

myths about millennials at work

millennials are lazy

When it comes to myths about Millennials in the workplace, this one repeatedly tops the charts. Millennials get a bad rap for being unwilling to work. However, studies have shown that’s patently untrue. Millennials have one of the highest employment rates in Canada, with 86% of 25 to 34-year-olds employed in 2017, according to StatCan. And with the Canadian unemployment rate in steady decline, it’s probable these numbers have only strengthened in the last year.

Also notable: according to a survey by Allianz, Millennial workers are more likely to leave their vacation days unused, than any other generation, with 48% leaving some or all of their vacation unclaimed. The reason? Fear of being deemed lazy and shamed for needing time off. So if anything, Millennials are going out of their way to disprove this theory.  (Side note: we recently discussed why taking vacation is important for all workers, and why you should never leave your paid vacation unused!)

Perhaps this myth stems from the fact that many Millennials are chronically under-employed, rather than unemployed. Being under-employed means you have a job, but it’s not in line with your education and skill level. Think: having a 4-year university degree, but holding a minimum wage job. According to Forbes, approximately 44% of recently graduated Millennials reported being under-employed in 2017.

To put Millennial under-employment in context, we must remember that Millennials came of age in the midst of the Great Recession, which led to many skilled young workers being unable to find opportunities early in their careers. That under-employment has followed many of them throughout their careers. Many Millennials continue to struggle to progress their careers because they lacked entry-level opportunities that set the foundation for climbing the corporate ladder later in their careers.

The job market has only just recently begun to turn around in the last few years. Yet, it seems, in many cases, to have skipped over Millennials, as employers are now looking to the youngest working generation, Generation Z, to fill brand new entry-level jobs. So, no, Millennials aren’t lazy. They want to work. But they had the bad luck of coming of age in an era when there was a lot of competition for fewer good opportunities. Now that the economy is booming, Millennials are finally starting to see more good career-building opportunities emerge.

millennials are entitled

Another common refrain when it comes to Millennials: they’re entitled and want everything handed to them without earning it. They want raises and promotions and perks, without laying their career foundation first. There’s no clear evidence to support these claims. In fact, as we pointed out above, almost half of Millennials are under-employed, so we could argue that the exact opposite is true.

It’s likely that Millennials’ strong opinions have been read as entitlement. As a whole, Millennials are more willing to speak up and express their opinions, even to elders and managers, than previous generations. The majority of Millennials were raised by Baby Boomers and taught self-assurance and confidence in themselves. They’re not afraid to say what they want and define boundaries, especially in their careers. They may have crystal clear ideas about what they want in a job. For instance, their list of ideal employers might be small, or perhaps they’re inflexible about what they’re willing to accept in a workplace culture.

Though what Millennials prioritize might differ from previous generations (for instance: work-life balance, workplace culture, etc.), there’s no evidence to suggest that Millennials aren’t willing to work hard to earn the things they want in their work lives.

millennials seek constant praise

Millennials are often decried as the ‘participation trophy’ generation, having grown up in an era where everyone gets a prize, no matter their personal effort level. Millennials are also the first social media generation. They grew up on early social media platforms like MySpace and Facebook and have become accustomed to the constant feedback loop that make up online interactions. This has led many to speculate that Millennials need a similar stream of constant praise to function at work.

While there is some evidence to suggest that Millennials value frequent feedback more than other working generations, the idea that they seek out praise has no basis in fact. Millennials say they prefer more frequent check-ins with their boss, compared to Gen X and Baby Boomers who feel less frequent meetings are more productive. However, the notion that Millennials are looking for validation isn’t true. It’s the conversation that’s important, not praise. Millennials are more likely than any other generation to say that constructive criticism is an important element in their personal and career growth. In a recent IBM study, which further debunks the notion Millennials actively seek out praise, the top qualities Millennials sought in a boss were, in order: fairness, transparency, communication, and dependability. Just 29% said they prefer a boss who doles out regular praise.

millennials don’t want management roles (and aren’t qualified for them, anyway)

The idea is that Millennials either don’t want the responsibility (which feeds back into the 'Millennials are lazy' stereotype) that comes with management roles or aren’t capable of being good managers.

In 2016, Millennials overtook Baby Boomers as the largest working generation in Canada. So it makes sense that the share of Millennial managers is also on the rise. At the ages of 25-38, many Millennials are reaching the point in their careers where they’re being considered for upper-tier management jobs. There’s no evidence to show that Millennials are actively avoiding these jobs. As with any newly-minted managers, Millennials will most certainly have a learning curve as they adapt to being leaders. However, all signs point to Millennials being up to the task. As a whole, Millennials have high EQ (aka emotional intelligence) which is a key component of being a good leader. They’re also likely to value communication and a positive work culture, two qualities which will no doubt play well in leadership roles.

millennials can’t pull away from technology

Millennials are the first generation to grow up with a computer and other technology in their homes, so it’s only natural that technology is an important element in their lives. Millennials also have the highest smartphone adoption rate, with 94% of Canadians Millennials owning one. There’s no denying that technology is important to Millennials. They’re also more likely to seek out companies they feel are tech-savvy and support their approach to technology.

Millennials view technology as an extension of themselves that makes their lives easier. They live by the motto ‘work smarter, not harder.’ They abhor inefficiency and red tape, and seek out technology to streamline their lives. They don’t want to do less; they want to do more in less time. This approach isn’t a bad thing. It can help innovate in areas where processes are stagnant and boost overall output by automating menial or repetitive jobs.

Interestingly, despite their love of all things tech, Millennials say they prefer face-to-face communication at work, over email and instant messages. So, while there’s no doubt that Millennials are tech-savvy, they’re able to see beyond technology when it makes sense, such as at work, where communicating complex ideas can be difficult via text. Millennials also strongly value in-person feedback (see: Millennials seek constant praise, above). The average Millennial prefers ongoing communication, on a weekly or daily basis, versus quarterly or annually, like older generations.

millennials are the generation of handouts

According to this myth, Millennials look to their parents to take care of basic needs like housing and food, while frivolously spending their cash on unnecessary and indulgent things like $8 avocado toast. There are memes galore that explain better than I could why this premise is so misguided.

As we’ve already noted, the economic climate in which Millennials came of age was a lot of different than for Baby Boomers and Gen Xers. In 1988, the average house price in Toronto was $273,000 – which, somewhat ironically, was considered astronomically high at the time (eventually the average price settled down to slightly under $200,000 in the mid-90s). Fast forward to 2017 and the average home in Toronto will set you back a cool $822,000. When you factor in the fact that average wages haven’t followed suit with the 300% increase in home prices over this same time frame, it becomes very clear that handouts have very little to do with the Millennial mindset. In Canadian cities like Toronto and Vancouver where the cost is living is high, living with family is a necessity for many. In order to meet a basic cost of living, Millennials are living with their parents longer – in fact, according to a Pew Research Center report, for the first time in well over a century, more 18 to 34 years live with their parents than in any other arrangement.

Also worthy of note: a recent study conducted by Bank of America made headlines for noting that 16% of Millennials has $100,000 saved, and 47% have socked away $15,000 or more. So it seems like more Millennials are indeed saving for long-term goals – such as putting a down payment on those absurdly expensive homes – than previously thought.

 

It’s time to say good riddance to these unproven and harmful myths about Millennials. Just like any generation, Millennials are a diverse group, with many talented and ambitious workers among them. While a few bad eggs have burdened this generation with a rep that’s hard to shake, it’s time we take a look beyond stereotypes and acknowledge what Millennials bring to the workforce.

In today’s multi-generational workforce Millennials play a vital role. Creating an employer brand that appeals to Millennials should be an important part of every organization’s hiring strategy. After all, when Baby Boomers and Gen Xers retire in the not-too-distant future, it will be Millennials who take the helm. It’s time to bring them on board and prepping them now. 

about the author

Kristen Smalley - Content Manager

As someone who firmly believes that variety is the spice of life, content marketing has been a natural career path for me. Every day brings a chance to think creatively and learn about exciting new topics. Whether it's tackling content on employment trends, how to handle tough interview questions, or keeping safe in the workplace, there are always interesting topics waiting to be explored in the world of work!

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