Millennials get a lot of flak. I can’t count the number of articles and think pieces I’ve seen calling millennials lazy and selfish and, in general, blaming all the woes of the world on them. I try not to take it personally, but it’s hard.
In conjunction with the article I wrote about cooperation between the generations in the dispatch center, I’ve also decided to tackle some myths about millennials to show that we aren’t as hopeless as some would have you think.
Myth: Millennials are teenagers.
Fact: The youngest millennials are turning 21 this year and the oldest are turning 37. There’s some debate as to exactly when each generation begins and ends, but the Pew Research Center defines millennials as those who were born between 1981 and 1997.1 (If the idea of being a millennial horrifies you after decades of thinking you’re Generation X, you should know that the birth years of each generation aren’t legally binding or even widely agreed upon.) So if you want to do some grumbling about those darn teenagers and their cellphones, you’ll have to call them by their correct generational title: Generation Z.
Myth: Millennials love their phones more than they love actual people.
Fact: Millennials are using their phones to interact with other people. OK, so Facebook and Twitter aren’t the pinnacle of meaningful interaction, but they are interaction nonetheless. (I’m not going to give millennials a free pass on this one: It’s super rude to be on your phone interacting with someone else while ignoring the person standing in front of you. Shape up.)
Myth: Millennials are lazy.
Fact: A large percentage of millennials don’t take vacation time for fear of being seen as slackers. That’s right, 43 percent of millennials don’t use their allotted vacation time and, when they do, they feel guilty about taking the time off (compared to the 29 percent average of millennials, Gen X, and baby boomers all together).2 It’s still relatively difficult for millennials to find jobs in the workforce at all, so it’s understandable that they want to do everything they can to show how dedicated they are (especially when the other generations have labeled them as “lazy”).
Myth: Millennials are the participation trophy generation.
Fact: Although millennials were given participation trophies by older generations, they know the difference between participation awards and achievement awards. I played rec soccer and softball as a kid and let me tell you, even though we all got trophies at the end of the season, everyone on that team knew which players put in actual effort and which ones phoned their performance in. It’s the same story in the workplace. We know how to distinguish between people who are being rewarded for their achievements and people who are being rewarded for showing up.
Myth: Millennials are selfish.
Fact: Millennials are big into volunteering and donating. 84 percent of millennial employees made a charitable contribution in 2014 and, according to that same study, 70 percent of millennials volunteer their time each year.3 Millennials averaged 40 volunteer hours in 2016, compared to 34 for Gen Xers and 41 for baby boomers.4 So we haven’t beat out the baby boomers quite yet, but to be fair, most millennials are volunteering on top of holding down full-time jobs (and not taking vacations).
Myth: Millennials are a single entity, communicating and making decisions with other millennials using an intricate hive mind.
Fact: The millennial generation is made up of individuals. Some millennials are hardworking, some are lazy. Some are unmotivated, some are ambitious. While there are certain trends among the millennial generation, you shouldn’t assume that every single millennial you come across, whether on the street or in the workplace, is the same.
- Fry R. “Millennials surpass Gen Xers as the largest generation in the U.S. Labor Force.” Pew Research Center. 2015; May 11. http://www.pewresearch.org/fact-tank/2015/05/11/millennials-surpass-gen-xers-as-the-largest-generation-in-u-s-labor-force/ (accessed Nov. 2, 2017).
- “The Work Martyr’s Cautionary Tale: How the Millennial Experience Will Define America’s Vacation Culture.” Project: Time Off. 2016; Aug 18. https://www.projecttimeoff.com/research/work-martyrs-cautionary-tale (accessed Nov. 2, 2017).
- “The Millennial Impact Report 2015.” The Millennial Impact Report. 2015. http://achievemulti.wpengine.com/mi/files/2016/07/2015-MillennialImpactReport_01.pdf (accessed Nov. 2, 2017).
- “Survey of Millennial Donors Indicates They Will Likely Give More as They Mature.” Association of Fundraising Professionals. 2017; May 24. http://www.afpnet.org/Audiences/MemberNewsDetail.cfm?ItemNumber=43948 (accessed Nov. 2, 2017).