Working with #Millennials (and Breaking the Stereotypes)

We know, we know. You hate us. We’re smart, hardworking, loyal, humble and we intimidate you. Oh wait … you don’t think those things about millennials? How could you not? We’re awesome. Or so say our parents …

Let’s start by emphasizing, this is a sensitive subject. As a millennial – which is defined as a person currently between 18 to 33 – there are a lot of stereotypes (mostly negative) about our work ethic. Considering half of the J. Walcher Communications staff fits into this generational group, it has often been a point of discussion.

We, naturally, have defended ourselves – “We are not lazy!” we chant in unison while marching with our imaginary protest posters (designed perfectly in Photoshop with great images and fonts, because, well, we’re tech-savvy).

It’s no surprise, but one topic covered at the Public Relations Society of America (PRSA) Western District Conference in San Diego last March, was that what other generations think about millennials and what we think about ourselves is completely different.

Consider this:

  • 86 percent of millennials describe themselves as hard working; 11 percent of HR professionals agree
  • 82 percent of millennials think they are loyal to their employer; 1 percent of HR professionals agree

Ouch. The verdict is in: we have some PR work to do (on ourselves).

So how do we break these stereotypes and create a better work environment for everyone? Here are some tips for my fellow “me me me” gen-ers:

  • First, we have to realize we’re not special. Most likely, nothing (including a job) will be handed to us just because we’re smart, charming or even have a diploma. Working hard for what you want is, and always was, the key.
  • We need to be willing to reverse mentor. Be willing to graciously teach your older colleagues about new skills like social media, photo editing, video, etc.
  • Recognize that it is a common feeling in our generation to want regular feedback. Your boss or supervisor might not be used to giving you the frequent feedback you would like, so: 1) check your expectations and make sure you’re not asking too much of them; 2) communicate to them that you would like to know how you perform on a given task so that you can learn for the future; 3) try scheduling a regular evaluation meeting with your supervisor – about every 6 months is a good time frame.
  • Sometimes we have a habit to deflect instead of reflect. Take responsibility for your mistakes – always.

And for the haters … We know you think we’re the narcissistic generation, but that’s not actually a millennial problem, it’s a young person problem! We’re still in the life phase where we’re trying to figure ourselves out – our education, careers, family, etc. Please give us some time.

Lastly, here’s one tip for all: Let’s accept our differences. Take it easy and deal with the fact that we all have different habits. Hostility breeds contempt. And we can all really learn a lot from each other.

*Statistics and observations were presented at the PRSA Western District Conference in a presentation by Chris Perez and Matt Prince. For more on what we learned at the conference, see Sandy Young’s post from March.