It’s no exaggeration to say that millennials are a misunderstood and sometimes reviled group of workers. We blame their failings on a lot of things: helicopter parents, participation trophies and timeouts instead of spankings. As with many things society doesn’t understand at first, we have exaggerated the pervasiveness and severity of this generation’s unique habits. Millennial urban legends are beginning to rival the hook-handed serial killer on Lover’s Lane. Text-neck and trigger-thumb from our iPhones, six months at one job before we move to the next, and unrestrained entitlement top the list of tall tales. To be fair, some of these complaints have teeth, but others are about as credible as a Martian invasion and the subsequent government cover-up.
As a former preteen who once spent hours upon hours talking on the phone, it’s hard to believe that millennials are so averse to phone calls today, but, alas, this is no storyline from “The Twilight Zone.” Cold-calling evangelists may clutch their pearls, but when someone calls unannounced it often isn’t received well. Random phone calls can imply that the caller believes their priorities are more important than the recipients’. Think of it as the equivalent to walking into someone’s office, sitting down and just chit-chatting without asking if they’re in the middle of something. [If you are that person, please stop doing that.] Millennials prefer email/text because it allows them to prioritize the message, respond thoughtfully, and complete any tasks they’re working on before replying. Beyond that, email is the modern-day searchable filing cabinet. You can always relocate the information you need at a later date. Unsurprisingly, professionals outside of the millennial generation are also starting to adopt this preference.
Another top grievance is that millennials have limited commitment to their employers. Ahem, they “job hop.” This one is, categorically, an urban legend. OK, OK, you need evidence. After all, I’m a millennial – why trust me? According to a study released by the Bureau of Labor Statistics in 2015, baby boomers changed jobs in their 20s at the same rate that millennials do now with an average of six jobs between the ages of 18 and 24. Let me demystify this even further: Young people usually take whatever job they can get because they have no idea what they want to do for the rest of their lives. On top of that, millennials in particular came of age during a recession where if you didn’t take whatever job you could get, you were perpetually unemployed. Unemployed millennials can’t buy brunch and believe me, brunch is millennial kryptonite.
Lastly, millennials work differently than other generations, but they are not aggregately lazy or entitled. We don’t always subscribe to traditional work hours. We value work-life balance and sometimes prioritize it over a demanding career. We want to understand the why’s behind what we’re doing because we crave purpose. Are these entitlements the fodder of fairytales? That’s debatable. But, they all describe what sage elders tell us to prioritize after it’s too late for them to do so. Spend more time with your family. Do something you love. Work hard but set boundaries. No one walking the plank says, “I wish I would have worked more.”
As with most negative reputations, attitudes toward millennials are based on part folklore and part truth. We can be indecisive, kind of needy and will constantly challenge the status quo. But, we also answer late-night emails, constantly seek new technology to be more efficient and work limitless hours once we find our passion. With more generations working alongside each other than ever, it’s vital that we learn to cope with each era’s idiosyncrasies and leave the larger-than-life stereotypes to the raconteurs.