Generations shaped by history, not stereotypes

TJ Warren, above, works in an intergenerational workspace at Pathway in Wartburg College.
TJ Warren, above, works in an intergenerational workspace at Pathway in Wartburg College.

While there are plenty of negative stereotypes facing Millennials, Generation X and the Baby Boomers themselves aren’t left unscathed. Negative expectations for any generation are hardly new, but many Millennials may not be aware of the harmful beliefs held for older coworkers.

 TJ Warren, an associate for vocation and mentoring, said the stereotypes facing all generations are loosely based and shouldn’t be applied to all employees.

 “Even though this is a concept and people study it and it’s well researched, we shouldn’t generalize, stereotype and keep people in a box,” Warren said.

Generations can be better defined and understood by looking at major historical events which occurred during years of growth, Millennial speaker

Crystal Kadakia explained in a Huffington Post Blog. That in mind, what has defined the Baby Boomers and Generation X?

 Easily the largest generation with 78.8 million people according to a 1999 census by Pew Research Center, the Baby Boomers got their name after young men returned home from World War II and began having children.

Those who grew up during this time period were shaped by historical events which would later end up in Millennials’ history textbooks. The Korean War, Brown v. Board of Education, The Pill, the Vietnam War and Woodstock all shaped the Baby Boomer perspective.

 Stereotypically, those of the Baby Boomer generation would be labeled as optimistic, micro-managers and diligent.

Generation X was tagged as the “middle child” of America in a recent article by Pew Research Center. The Generation X label applies to those around 34 to 49-years-old and is the bridge between two very diverse generational groups, the Millennials and the Baby Boomers.

Children growing up as Generation X were some of the first to have an income from two parents coupled with an increasing divorce rate. The end of the Cold War, the fall of the Berlin Wall, as well as MTV and the Internet were all key historical points for this generation.

 Generation X is stereotyped as cynical, independent and pessimistic.

 Ashley Rosa, a third-year college student, said more often than not, most of the stereotypes for older generations can be tied to technology and different communication methods.

 “I think there are manner stereotypes that anyone over 50 is ‘old-fashioned’ or ‘traditional’ and those often take negative connotations,” Rosa said. “We seem to think in the U.S. that anyone who is older has different views or does not know how to work technology.”

 It is easy to slap labels on people of a certain age, Torie Jochims, co-author of “Conquering the Witch Within: Intergenerational Work Place Strategies that Create Real Results,” said.

“I think overall you have to be willing to understand there will be communication breakdowns on both sides and be willing to work through that from both sides,” Jochims explained. “Just view people as people and judge based on their work ethic and attitude in the office rather than how old or young anyone is.”


Millennial workforce faces generational stereotypes

IMG_2064In 2015, Millennials are expected to become the largest generation populating the workforce. While Millennials’ college degrees have prepared them to enter the workforce, there are many unforeseen challenges related to generational stereotypes and age.

Millennials, those born between 1980 and 1994 and also known as Generation Y, are now sharing cubical space with Generation X (those born between 1965 and 1979) and Baby Boomers (1946 to 1964). Though some overlap may occur within those birth dates, each generation is found to have different influencers, training focuses and ideal leader characteristics, which can all collide in the workplace.

Susan Meyeraan, the associate professor of business administration at Wartburg College, said a natural tension can occur between these generations in the workplace, mostly due to preconceived stereotypes.

“The primary stereotype [of Millennials] always has to do with arrogance,” Meyeraan said. “The next generation coming up always seems to think that they are smarter than we are. And we have seen that for generations and I think we always will.”

A study conducted by Elance-o Desk, an online workplace, and Millennial Brand, a Gen Y consulting firm, found 1,039 Millennials, ages 21 to 32, had opinions of themselves that greatly differed from those of 200 hiring managers.

According to the study, the hiring managers found Millennials more likely to possess narcissistic traits, were money driven and were far less likely to be a team player when compared to their Generation X counterparts.

Torie Jochims, a young Millennial and co-author of “Conquering the Witch Within: Intergenerational Work Place Strategies that Create Real Results,” said she often sees the Millennial generation associated with laziness and entitlement.

“I also think there’s an undercurrent of thinking we expect tech to do everything for us and that we are all becoming hippies with no work ethic,” Jochims said.

Pathways Associate for Vocation and Mentoring TJ Warren said he believes Millennials’ sense of entitlement could be linked to a childhood where everyone is taught they are a winner.

“We grew up in a time where everybody was special and everybody had awards. You participate in a soccer tournament and first team won a trophy, but so did the team that didn’t win,” Warren said. “Everyone won these awards, so this sense of entitlement, this idea of everybody is OK, tends to be a problem.”

As Millennials enter a workplace, Warren advised to be aware of the expectations stacked against them. Understanding the stereotypes and then working to counteract them with a positive attitude and quality work can help to not line up with the stereotypes, he explained.

The incoming workforces of Millennials do carry skillsets separating them from previous generations. Elance-o Desk and Millennial Brand found Generation Y employees to be creative, open to change and adaptable.

Jochims herself found the Millennial generation to be faced with more challenges than past ones, simply due to the increase of global knowledge and understanding.

“I think our generation is extremely hard-working. We have no choice but to work our butts off because every field is insanely competitive thanks to a tech-culture that has the world’s information at everyone’s fingertips,” Jochims explained.

Warren cautioned against boxing any generation into a set of stereotypes.

“When we start to stereotype, that can shift cultures and ideas,” Warren said. “You don’t want to put people into that category of, ‘Oh, you’re just a Millennial.’ That just limits you in your office, the work you do and the productivity you have.”