Millennials, or at least the stereotypical version of them we’ve come to know and loathe, do some painfully stupid things — especially in the workplace.
Before I explain, a disclaimer: I’m a semi-millennial. I was born in the early 1980s. I grew up learning new technologies. I wasn’t born using them. I understand and use social media, but am not obsessive about it. I could go on, but let’s just say that I exist on the cusp of millennials and gen Xers. I get both and yet I don’t.
The New York Times published an article this weekend examining the apparent difficulties of millennials in the workplace, using three distinct, and unflattering, personality traits to describe them. As much as I’d like to stick up for my quasi-kin, I’ve experienced these “types” of millennials firsthand. Sadly, there is truth to these descriptions, and they illustrate how idiotic the stereotypical millennial can be.
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1. They have a sense of entitlement.
Maybe we should blame social media and the Internet. The stereotypical millennial is addicted to immediate gratification — and it’s not usually deserved. Straight from their entry-level positions, millennials demand from their employers to be inspired and entertained, to be immediately recognized for their work and made to feel as though they are changing the world.
I don’t think I sound like a fuddy-duddy when I say: get real. Employees don’t automatically receive these things. You earn recognition. You earn more meaningful projects. You have to go above and beyond what is expected. You don’t get awards and high-fives for just showing up.
2. They have a tendency to overshare on social media.
We know that young people have a problem sharing naked pictures of themselves on Snapchat. But workforce-ready millennials apparently also have a problem oversharing their important thoughts on sites such as Medium.
Take, for example, the 2,400-word blistering missive a young woman named Talia Jane wrote about the poor wages paid to entry-level types at Yelp/Eat24, where she worked. She addressed the post specifically to Jeremy Stoppelmann, Yelp’s co-founder and CEO. Unfortunately, Jane’s many, many passages about the high cost of living in San Francisco didn’t elicit the sympathy she presumably was hoping for. Nor was the very public post appreciated by her managers. (Jane was fired following her anti-Yelp rant.)
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This weekend’s NYT article talked about Joel Pavelski, director of programming at Mic, a news site created by and for millennials. He told his bosses that he needed a week off to attend a funeral back home in Wisconsin. You can imagine how confused and disappointed they were when they discovered an essay he wrote on Medium describing how he spent his time off building a treehouse — not attending a funeral. He even started the post this way: "I said that I was leaving town for a funeral, but I lied."
Unlike Jane, Pavelski was given a second chance. But what compelled these individuals to write these public posts? Social media is a wonderful means to communicate ideas, but it can be costly without a filter and a healthy dose of common sense.
3. Frankness verging on insubordination.
The NYT article also highlighted a few situations where entry-level millennials approached their company leaders to say or do things their bosses deemed inappropriate for the workplace. I’ve had similar experiences with millennial-age employees that left me to think, "Did they really just say that? To their boss? In public?"
Speaking your mind is one thing. It should be encouraged. But it’s detrimental without the filter of respect.
Millennial reality check.
It seems that a lot of traditional media have it out for millennials. The Atlantic hypothesized that millennials might be the most narcissistic generation of all time. The New York Post proclaimed that millennials need to “put away the juice boxes and grow up.”
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In a February article, the NYT suggested that millennials are so lazy they’ve stopped eating cereal because they can’t be bothered to wash the bowl when they’re done. Just, wow.
These stories, and the descriptions above, feed into the millennial stereotype. Sure, some millennials think and behave this way. But they don’t all fit the stereotype. Many understand that big rewards require hard work and sacrifice.
Poor workplace decisions aren’t the product of one generation. There are plenty of gen Xers who act like idiots, too. Baby boomers aren’t immune to poor judgement either.
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