What We Lose with the Millennial Eye-Roll

Some weeks ago, I was teaching a leadership class when the discussion turned to the multi-generational workforce. In no time, the class started in on Millennials. Complaint followed complaint accompanied by the obligatory eye-roll. Of course, no-one in the room was an actual Millennial. On the flip side, I have heard “okay Boomer” more than I would like to confess!

As research continues to increase around generational differences, we have somehow defaulted to stereotype and often not in a good way. While it is true that there are differences in how generations approach work, play and life in general, most all traits fall on a sliding scale and are seldom clustered at polar opposites. And let’s not forget that many of our characteristics are learned behaviors and that we’re often products of our environment. In other words, we’re dealing with degrees of fit rather than with absolutes.

So, back to the discussion in my class. The complaints about Millennials covered familiar territory:

A pain to work with… terrible work ethic… no respect for authority… think they know everything… entitled bunch… always late… don’t care about standards and procedures…

At this point, everyone was looking a little embarrassed as they realized that they had not mentioned a single positive trait and more than one had just described their own children! Which brought us to what we lose when we dismiss Millennials with an eye-roll.

The energy in the class increased noticeably when we flipped the discussion to the gifts Millennials bring to an organization:
  • Innovation
  • Creativity
  • Open-mindedness
  • Future proofing the organization
  • Technology, technology, technology
  • Growth
  • Progress
  • Breaking down barriers
  • Authenticity
  • Less formal
  • Change agents
  • Relationships matter
  • Work must be fun!

Our discussion ended with the realization that prejudices about generational differences can be costly to the organization even to the extent of stagnation. For organizations to grow and to prosper let’s focus on the gifts different generations bring instead of getting sucked into the negative stereotypes.


To participate in other spirited discussions, sign up for one of LMI Chicago’s leadership development programs – every moment will be worth it! For more information, contact Rene De Coning at 630.210.1500/ rdeconing@lmi-chicago.com or Jeff Johnson at 630.605.7039/ jjohnson@lmi-chicago.com.

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