Millennial Stereotypes in Workplace: Defy, Ignore, or Embrace?

Dear ME-llennials (myself included), do you know that your boss sometimes secretly see you as a spoiled, self-entitled brat?

As the first digital native generation to enter the global workforce, a lot of negative stereotypes have been stamped towards millennials — especially in the workplace setting. Long list of CEOs have filed their complaints about the attitude or behavior of their millennial employees. It became a bit of a concern that this generation, those born between 1980 to 1994, will make up 50% of the global working professionals by 2020.

So, let’s kick things into high gear by dissecting 3 most frequently mentioned negative stereotypes about millennials:

1. Millennials are not loyal

Millennials are justified as a group of job hoppers that are so self-centered and couldn’t care less about the well-being of their workplace or company. They get bored often. They shy away from commitments. They don’t want to be attached. Workshops, seminars, trainings, sharing sessions, and other investments that companies made to enhance their competencies as employees mean nothing to them!

I get a more in depth understanding through a discussion with my fellow millennial friends. They were kind of defensive on this stereotype and stated that they can be loyal to a company IF……. and boy oh boy, there were lots of IF’-s. Their loyalty to a company might be conditional. A checklist of what makes a good workplace for millennials keep getting longer and longer. Nowadays, the benchmark of what makes a good workplace is beyond the salary earned and the company’s reputation. The Deloitte Millennial Survey 2016 reveals some of these other criteria include:

The constant comparison with their peers also doesn’t help. A survey conducted by Business Insider claims that 37% of the respondents will leave their job within 2 years with reasons relating to the employee’s pay. 15% claims that they managed to find another job with greater opportunity for advancement, 10% finds their salary to be less of their expectation and another 10% founds manage to find a better paid job else where.

Simple catch up sessions with friends can lead to sessions on who have chosen the right workplace. Some of us continuously seek external validations. Then we wonder, “did I pick the right place?”, “why can he work less hard, yet earns so much more than I do?”, “should I look for another job now?”.

2. Millennials are lazy

When I hear this stereotype I thought to myself, “When it comes to performance at work, why are we so different than the previous generations?”

Farina, my boss, stated in our podcast discussion (here we had so much fun talking about this topic, btw) that one assumption is that there’s a difference in the willingness in doing grunt work. The baby boomers or Gen X were okay with putting their heads down, listening to their boss, and doing all the dirty work; especially when they are still at the bottom of the corporate ladder. Millennials, on the other hand sometimes feel that they are too good to get their hands dirty. They don’t want to put in the grunt work anymore.

“Man, I didn’t graduate from a top university just to do research or making sales calls”, said some millennials.

To my fellow millennials, when you think and feel that you’re too good to do certain tasks, here’s something to remember from Ryan Holiday, (from his book ‘Ego is the Enemy’):

“Greatness comes from humble beginnings; it comes from grunt work. It means you’re the least important person in the room — until you change that with results”

3. Millennials are self-entitled

I know a lot of millennials that have big ambitions in life. That drive, that desire, that hunger to create an impact. That’s supposed to be a good thing, right? But on the other side of the coin, millennials are often viewed as self-entitled brats.

Self-entitlement. A feeling that one deserves more than one actually does.

When Farina led a session on leading millennials at WPP’s Stream Asia this year, she said that this stereotype was brought up by many CEOs or business leaders in the session. One VP of a large international bank mentioned that he hired a bunch of millennials that said ‘I want to lead a big team, I want to take on a multimillion project’, and *drumroll please*……only on their second week working at that company!

Millennials have that ‘I want to change the world’ attitude. Moreover with the lingering pressure of social media culture, they’re so obsessed with the idea of being a success story. They refuse to invest their time for a ‘mediocre’ career.

But the question remains, what can they actually do? Do they possess all the skill-set and the competencies to do all of the things they want to do? Millennials are surrounded with the ‘instant’ gratification mentality; they want everything quick, and that includes job promotion, pay raise, etc. It’s something that I personally could attest to.

So there you go, here are just some of the stereotypes that have been thrown around a lot about millennials. Now to all millennials reading this, what should we do now? Now that we’re completely aware of the stereotypes attached to us, what’s next? Should we collectively as a generation try to debunk all of it? Should we let it slide? Or should we…….embrace it *gasp*?

When I wrote this article, I giggled a lot. Some of the stereotypes, I can totally resonate with, while some of the others, not so much. At the same time, I also question whether these stereotypes belong to millennials exclusively? I don’t think so. For example, I tend to see the problem of ‘switching jobs easily’ as a ‘fresh graduate’ issue not just a ‘millennial’ thing. Yes maybe there’s a tendency for the younger workforce today to easily switch jobs more often than their senior colleagues, but I believe previous generations might went into the same confused path when they were once young as well.

Calling younger generations lazy, spoiled, self-entitled, annoying, has been practiced by so many people throughout history (myself included). But stereotyping and segregating millennials vs non-millennials in the workforce (or in general!) won’t help us do that much good, because at the end of the day, whichever generation you came from, I believe we all want more or less of the same things from a workplace.

The idea of millennials trying to defy these negative stereotypes for the sake of proving people wrong doesn’t sit right with me; let alone the idea of sacrificing their own happiness during the process! I mean the idea of staying in a job that you absolutely hate for the sake of being a poster child of “non-mainstream” millennial is incredibly ridiculous. So on that note, this is how I decided to deal with all these negative stereotypes:

1. Relax. There are a lot of things that time and experience will get you.

2. Humility is sexy. Being humble is cool.

3. Stereotype = generalization. Don’t overthink it.

4. Stereotype = generalization. Don’t be defensive about it.


Author: Ayip Fahmi

Editor: Farina Situmorang & Shula Arto

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