In 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.”