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Myths about Millennials in the Workplace

Tuesday, June 13, 2017 - 11:15
Myths about Millennials

Millennial employees have been stereotyped to death – so much so that, as one HR leader put it, “I’ve vowed … to never sit through another presentation on millennials in the workplace.” And yet even as millennial stereotype fatigue sets in, we can still count on a steady stream of “reports” that offer up a set of character traits that supposedly characterize the millennial workforce.

The problem is that many of these characterizations are false. Instead of illuminating new insights about millennials in the workplace, these stereotypes instead serve to reinforce prevailing negative assumptions about 20-something employees: They’re entitled; they have no attention span; they demand constant recognition. 

Among the many ill-informed stereotypes that capitalize on the supposed differences of the millennial worker, some of the most pervasive myths are tied to how millennials approach meetings, conferences and relations with their colleagues and superiors. Here are four of those myths – as well as the realities in each case:

Myth 1: Millennials are the first ones to take advantage of remote work opportunities

Reality: It’s true that the vast majority of millennials avail themselves of their company’s remote work policy – but so does every other working generation. In fact, our survey about the remote workforce revealed that Baby Boomer employees are actually more likely than millennials to use a remote work policy when it’s offered by their employer (95 percent vs. 93 percent). As the study illustrated, remote work is more than a uniquely millennial interest. Instead, it’s a desirable approach to work for all employees.

Myth 2: Millennials are impatient with their tech-challenged colleagues

Reality: One common misconception about millennials is that they’re know-it-alls who have no patience for any tech-related issues their older colleagues may experience. But as a Guardian contributor pointed out, exactly the opposite is true: Many millennials actually welcome the opportunity to “reverse mentor,” viewing it as a privilege to teach older colleagues newer skills like social media strategy.

Myth 3: Millennials will always choose the virtual communication option

Reality: Just because virtual options may exist for a business function doesn’t mean millennials will choose it by default. Our research has revealed, for instance, millennials were actually twice as likely as their Baby Boomer counterparts to report anxiety surrounding conducting sales meetings via video.

Myth 4: Millennials are itching to eliminate the physical office

Reality: Contrary to popular belief, younger workers aren’t hoping that remote work completely supplants the physical office. According to our study about the remote workforce, millennial workers are still very attached to the culture of the physical office – so much so that more than 15 percent of millennial employees who work remotely are regularly flocking to co-working spaces for the sense of a physical workplace that they offer. Whereas millennials have often been portrayed as threatening traditional workplace culture, in reality they’re only looking to evolve it.

Although myths about millennials in the workplace abound, the reality is that these employees can’t be neatly boxed into stereotypes. Articles touting tips on how to manage millennials in the workplace and headlines like TIME’s famous “The Me Me Me Generation” may sell magazines, but they don’t meaningfully reflect the differences and similarities between the millennial workforce and other generations of employees. By moving beyond false generalizations and instead taking an informed approach to understanding their millennial employees, companies can better accommodate all their workers and create a more unified workplace.

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