Stop with the Millennial (Gen Y) slander

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“Kids these days,” I heard someone say while I was waiting in line to buy a coffee. “They’re lazy. They want everything handed to them. My kids have no idea how hard my husband and I worked to give them the phones, video games, and everything they enjoy today.”

Let’s start with some clarification:

  • Baby Boomers: Generally consist of people born between 1946 and 1964 (ages 50 to 68).
  • Generation X: Generally consist of people born between 1965 and 1979 (ages 35 to 49).
  • Generation Y or “Millennials”: Generally consist of people born between 1980 and 1995 (ages 19 to 34).

According to a 2007 broadcast on CBS, corporations are so concerned about the oncoming Millennials that they hired consultants to help them “deal with this generation that only takes ‘yes’ for an answer.” The report is available here if you want to read it. I stopped reading it about halfway through out of sheer annoyance. Suffice to say that most people I talk to who are not Millennials generally have few, if any, complimentary things to say about this generation. I won’t tell you which generation I’m from (a woman’s got to be discreet about her age), only that I am not a Baby Boomer (not even close). (I will tell you this: I was almost denied a mortgage because the bank exec who takes care of this stuff thought I was 21. I’m not close to 21 either, but that’s beside the point).

I know anecdotal evidence is not enough to defend the integrity of the Millennials, so I’m going to provide hard data. However, with a lot of kids from this generation in my family, I can offer these observations:

  • They are incredibly tech-savvy. My brother took about 3 ½ minutes to set up my new Samsung Tablet – which he bought for me – with everything I could possibly need. Sure, he texted me when he was done (even though he was one floor above me), but I’ll have you know he didn’t use ridiculously cryptic abbreviations. My brother believes in proper spelling and grammar when he texts someone.
  • They are incredibly determined. Ok – so my cousin went from wanting to be a police officer, to a personal trainer, to a gym teacher. My brother went from wanting to be an accountant (he is an absolute number whiz) to an English teacher. My point is, while they do change their mind pretty often, once they are truly settled on a goal Millennials won’t stop working hard until they achieve it.
  • They are very open-minded. Most Millennials don’t care about a person’s sexual orientation, nationality, or skin color. Everyone is the same to them.
  • They stand against injustices. It’s true: Millennials won’t take “no” for an answer – as in “no” harming the planet, “no” war, “no” cruelty to animals.

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Now, for those who think that Millennial employees are only motivated by money and rewards that they don’t want to work for (or as the CBS report put it, employees who are “narcissistic praise hounds”) I really beg to differ. And I’ve got the stats to back it up.

Using data from our Career Motivation Test, I attempted to uncover how Millennials, Gen Xers, and Baby Boomers differ in terms of motivators. Here’s what I discovered: (Note: Scores range from 0 to 100; the higher the score, the more inspiring and important the motivator).

1) Achievement motivator: Desire to set and reach major goals, and rise up to challenges at work like making a big sale, leading a team, or designing a product.

  • Score for Millennials: 80
  • Score for Gen X: 79
  • Score for Boomers: 73

2) Structure and Order motivator: Preference for companies with an established system for performing tasks and clearly defined roles. Those with this motivator prefer clear instruction and also respect authority, processes, and rules. 

  • Score for Millennials: 73
  • Score for Gen X: 70
  • Score for Boomers: 64

This was a shock, I have to admit. I think when Millennials go against the grain, it’s not so much out of a desire to be difficult. They realize that sometimes, you have to do something bad (break rules) in order to do something good. There goes the theory that Millennials are “incorrigible” and only want to do things their way.

3) Contribution: Desire to make a name for oneself by contributing something major to a field of study. For example, creating a new invention, making an important discovery, or advancing technology. Typically, individuals who are motivated by Contribution value education, training, and experience, and are quite dedicated to their work.

  • Score for Millennials: 69
  • Score for Gen X: 63
  • Score for Boomers: 53

4) Mobility: Desire to see and experience new places. Individuals with this motivator are curious, open-minded, have a thirst for adventure, and are highly-adaptable.

  • Score for Millennials: 69
  • Score for Gen X: 64
  • Score for Boomers: 48

5) Recognition and Appreciation: Desire to feel valued for one’s hard work. This doesn’t necessarily mean public recognition, but involves acknowledgement at a root-level of the organization – people with this motivator want encouragement from their boss. They are driven by the positive feelings they get from the knowledge that they are making a valuable contribution to the company.

  • Score for Millennials: 72
  • Score for Gen X: 69
  • Score for Boomers: 65

6) Social Factors: Desire to work with others; to be a part of a team, group, or community. People with this motivator like sharing their thoughts and are generally strong communicators. They often choose a specific career based on its “human” element.

  • Score for Millennials: 69
  • Score for Gen X: 64
  • Score for Boomers: 62

7) Status: Desire to achieve a high social standing at work in order to impress others. It’s important to point out that individuals with this motivator take pride in their achievements and will work hard to stay on top. They are strong competitors who always “keep their eyes on the prize.”

  • Score for Millennials: 64
  • Score for Gen X: 54
  • Score for Boomers: 43

8) Fun and Enjoyment: For those with this motivator, what they are doing in life is not as important as whether they enjoy doing it. This doesn’t mean that they are not going to work hard; rather, it indicates that they want to work in a position where fun and hard work can coexist happily. They want a position that is well-suited to their interests. If you’re wondering why your college-bound teenager keeps changing his/her mind about what to major in, this may be the reason. As my Millennial brother said to my Boomer mother: “I don’t care if being an accountant will make me a lot of money. I want a job that I will enjoy doing for the next 40 years of my life, and where I won’t come home stressed, angry, and fed up.”

  • Score for Millennials: 75
  • Score for Gen X: 75
  • Score for Boomers: 68

Now, someone can easily point fingers and say, “What about motivators like learning, creativity, and altruism – you know, the more profound things? How come your Millennials are not motivated by these?” And to that I say: The score differences on these motivators were not statistically significant – meaning Boomers, Gen Xers, and Millennials had almost the same scores, and all above 70.

So how can I sum up this data in one comprehensive sentence? Like this: Millennials want all the benefits that a company has to offer – and they’re willing to work for it.

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Insightfully yours,

Queen D

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One thought on “Stop with the Millennial (Gen Y) slander

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