Stereotypes are widely held and oversimplified ideas or images that everyone within a certain group shares the same characteristics. Stereotypes are often based on ideas or experiences with certain individuals and then extended to apply to an entire group of people. One reason stereotypes survive is that people perpetuate them and believe them to be true; however, stereotypes are always flawed because people span many different groups as their experiences and interests shape their being.
One such stereotype that continues to frustrate me as an educator is that some adults, particularly those outside of education, view millennials and neomillenials as lazy, entitled, fragile, unreliable, and “always on their phones.” In reality, our younger generations, like their Gen X parents, all enter the classroom and workforce with different backgrounds, schema, learning needs, and future goals. These individual groups are often criticized and characterized by having a preference towards information connectedness, environments that support multitasking, and a focus of immediacy. Another take on those same characteristics could be viewed as a preference towards having access to unlimited information, wanting to work in dynamic environments, and having zero tolerance for wasted time.
While some in the corporate world are quick to hand down negative labels to our newer generations, statistics show otherwise. According to research by Robert Half, our newer generation of workers want the same benefits as other generations: job stability, a competitive salary, and growth opportunities. Likewise, students in today’s classrooms want to be challenged, are looking for role models with honesty and integrity, and want opportunities for social interaction. It seems we have spent so much time micro-analyzing our younger generations that we have convinced ourselves they are not as sharp, they do not possess the same work ethic, and they cannot be as successful as previous generations.
Those who rarely interact with millennials and neomillenials are often the ones criticizing them. People generally criticize what they don’t understand because it doesn’t fit within their paradigm of understanding, but like all stereotypes, this one is completely false. In fact, research on millennials in the workplace describes their characteristics as sociable, optimistic, talented, well educated, collaborative, open-minded, influential, and achievement oriented.
One problem lies with the fact that millennials are often supervised by an older generation that possesses a different mindset. According to Forbes, 68% percent of organizations find it difficult to manage millennials. That shouldn’t be a surprise since most of those managers surveyed were probably born in the 1960s or before - long before the wifi, cell phones, Google, and Instagram. It would make more sense for businesses to train their managers and other executives on how to better motivate and lead their newer generation of workers, rather than allocating resources trying to find the flaws with their largest growing employment group.