Three Myths to Ignore About Millennial Colleagues: Stop Blinding Yourself with Sound Bites

“Millennials don’t just want to read the news anymore. They want to know what they can do about it.” – Ian Somerhalder, Actor and entrepreneur.

You’ve probably heard some negative press about Millennials, the current generation taking the workforce by storm. These young people, born between 1980 and 2000, are hitting the ground running straight from college and business school, and they will represent 75% of the workforce by 2025.

Critics of the Millennial Generation call them disloyal, overly ambitious, entitled, and even lazy. Nonsense (←Click to Tweet). While of course there are always individual bad apples, I’ve found none of those labels to be true as a rule. All three of my children are Millennials. I also love working with Millennials in my client organizations when given the opportunity. I find them to be creative, productive go-getters who care deeply about their work and want to make a difference.

Here are three myths I find most pervasive about them:

Myth Number 1: Millennials Are Disloyal. Not really; they’re just more aware of the new reality of the corporate world. Millennials don’t share the values of the previous generation around lifelong employment, and why should they? Conditions have changed. They no longer expect to work for one employer for their entire careers, because employer loyalty to employees no longer exists. While they were growing up, they watched as their parents’ pensions disappeared, 401ks and other benefits dried up, and guaranteed employment went out the window as companies struggled to survive.

Millennials watched and learned as their parents were cut loose and sent scrambling to find new work. So you have to ask: if they perceive companies as no longer loyal to them, then why should they be loyal to the companies? The knife cuts both ways. While not ready to jump ship at the drop of a hat, Millennials know they may need to look for work at any time. They’ve learned the hard way to look out for #1 first, because no one else will do it for them. We encourage young people to learn from our experiences, and in this case they have—so why fault them for it?

Myth Number 2: Millennials are ambitious and entitled.  I’m not sure when ambition became a sin, but older workers seem resentful that Millennials don’t want to spend five years before moving up the corporate ladder. They argue that Millennials want everything given to them without having to pay their dues. But Millennials are quite aware of their wider range of work options these days, and aren’t willing to sublimate their desires in favor of company needs. They’ve seen older relatives receive surprise pink slips even after years of hard work. So is it any wonder they want to get what they can as soon as they can? This isn’t based on a sense of entitlement; it’s based on second-hand experience and ambition. If they can’t get gratification quickly, they know they may not get it at all.

Myth Number 3: Millennials are lazy. Hardly; I find they work as hard and as long as members of any other group. But two things you’re not taking into account may make them look less committed. First of all, Millennials are independent by nature. They know how to use modern technology for their benefit and can’t remember when it didn’t exist. They know how to put it to use in ways you don’t. Some of those things they’re doing that look like slacking are new ways of achieving old goals. Second, since the old business rules don’t work anymore, they don’t bother with them. The new rules they’re developing are based on agility, flexibility, and a willingness to change quickly, producing an environment that’s resulted in concepts like crowdsourcing, AirBnB, and Uber. Millennials will happily work hard once they settle in, especially for a cause and a manager they believe in.

The Upshot

Like it or not—and there’s a lot to like—Millennials are the wave of the future. Listen to them, work with them, accept them and their attitudes; don’t make them fit your mold. They want you to care about what you’re doing as much as they do, not just give lip service to traditions you don’t believe in yourself. They like to work, they’re highly aware of social causes, and they’ll put in extra effort if you contribute to things they believe in or engage in socially conscious practices.

Give your Millennials the chance to try new things and the permission to fail without punishment, and they’ll help you push performance to new heights. Don’t let false assumptions blind you to their potential.

Side note: Bringing millennials into the workplace is  part of a larger hallmark of good business — adapting to change. For more on the importance of successfully adapting to change, you can check out my video on the subject.

© 2017 Laura Stack.

About Laura Stack, your next keynote speaker:

Laura Stack, MBA, CSP, CPAE is an award-winning keynote speaker, bestselling author, and noted authority on productivity and performance. Funny, engaging, and full of real life strategies that work, Laura will change mindsets and attitudes so your people can maximize productivity, strengthen performance, and get the job done right. Her presentations at corporate events, sales kick-off meetings, and association conferences help audiences improve output, increase speed in execution, and save time in the office. Stack has authored seven books, including her newest work, Doing the Right Things Right: How the Effective Executive Spends Time (Jan. 2016). To have Laura Stack speak at your next event, call 303-471-7401, email, or CONTACT US.

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  1. Rhonda Grant says:

    Great article – yes, I understand better. My children are also Millennials and I see all those things in them that you mentioned in your article. We do try to mold them to our way but times are very different now. They still have good values, just do things differently.

  2. Filip Bacic says:

    I must say that I am a Millennial and that all those things are true. I work in a big corporation and I see also more of this other side of Millennials. I think that younger people should first learn from more experienced colleagues and then try to implement their own ideas and change things for the better. Otherwise, we repeat mistakes from the past. I love the comic. 🙂