There are many stereotypes in the marketplace about millennials. We’ve all heard them…lazy, entitled and narcissistic, just to name a few. Like a lot of stereotypes, some of those labels just aren’t accurate. But we also can’t ignore the fact that stereotypes don’t just come out of nowhere. They are born out of some sort of behavior, pattern or conduct.
I contend that many of the negative stereotypes of millennials are in actuality positive attributes. The challenge is the blurred lenses through which those that have created these stereotypes have been viewing millennials.
It’s been my experience that Baby Boomers and Generation X typically view millennials through a lens conditioned by events and expectations respective to their own generation. This is what I believe has led to countless numbers of Baby Boomers and Generation Xers to misinterpret attributes of millennial magnificence as mediocrity.
I believe that the generation gap that exists between millennials and their Baby Boomer and Generation X counterparts is created largely in part due to an expectation gap.
“Entitlement & Need for Instant Gratification”
What Boomers and Xer’s consider “entitled” could be and should be viewed as great expectations. Millennials have great expectations of themselves and those around them. It’s all in how you see it and respond to it.
Another critique of millennials that is closely tied to “entitlement” is the need for “instant gratification”. I see this as being driven!
There is nothing wrong with wanting to get as far as you can as fast as you can. Once again though, this is simply a matter of properly managing expectations. This is ironically quite the opposite of being “lazy” and an attribute that if properly nurtured and developed by older generation counterparts, can be incredibly beneficial to all parties involved.
“Lack of Focus & Respect”
Another example is the perceived “lack of focus” label that is often assigned to millennials. I completely understand how this perception has come about. It can be frustrating and borderline rude for a Baby Boomer to see one of his or her millennial employees sitting in a meeting typing on their smart phone or tablet the entire time. It can also be show perceived lack of focus or disrespect to be having a conversation with one of your millennial colleagues while they are constantly typing away on their laptop.
What Boomers and Gen X may consider a “lack of focus” or “lack of respect”, I believe is actually an ability to multitask at a level that is unique to millennials. I say it is unique to millennials because it is simply how this generation has been conditioned and accustomed to operating. Once again, this is where the expectation gap based on generational differences can lead to misinterpreting magnificence for mediocrity
If more Baby Boomer and Gen X leaders can see the incredible ability to multitask instead of seeing a lack of focus, then maybe they could understand how to better leverage that unique talent for an increased level of productivity for the organization and for the individual.
Be Careful About Perceptions
Many of the millennial stereotypes assigned by Boomers and Gen X become self-fulfilling prophecies. I’ve seen it happen time and time again where senior leadership in an organization has a perception and/or expectation of their millennial counterparts and they see what they have convinced themselves they would see.
This is what happens, in my opinion, when we project our own expectations onto others. Millennials represent a new era, with new expressions and new expectations. It’s not about one way being right or wrong, its just different behaviors based on a different climate, culture and conditioning.
I encourage all of my Baby Boomer and Generation X counterparts out there to take a step back and look at your millennial colleagues through a lens of clarity and objectivity. I am confident that you will see the magnificence in what you once thought was mediocrity.
How do you think millennials are perceived? Correctly or falsely?
Photo Credit: moriza