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Five Myths About Millennials Debunked

Study reveals surprising similarities between generations

Millennials, people born between 1980 and 1993, have gotten a bad rap in the workplace. They are viewed as either egomaniacs with a sense of entitlement or overly enthusiastic go-getters who can really annoy their superiors. But a recent study by Carolyn Heller Baird for the IBM Institute for Business Value found that many of our beliefs about Millennials are not supported by research.

The study, which surveyed 1,784 employees from organizations across 12 countries and six industries, compared the views of Millennials with those of Gen Xer’s (born between 1965 and 1976) and Baby Boomers (born between 1946 and 1964). The results revealed that there are many more similarities between Millennials and their older counterparts than previously thought.

“Often with the generations there are a lot of general statements that simply aren’t true,” says Cheryl Cran, author of 101 Ways to Make Generations X, Y and Zoomers Happy at Work. “Also, it’s not necessarily about age. You can be of a younger generation with the values of an older generation, or you can be in an older generation and have the technology aptitude of a younger generation.”

Here are five commonly held beliefs about Millennials that may not be true.

Myth No.1: Millennials' career goals and expectations are different from those of older generations.

Millennials and older employees typically share the same goals. In fact, in the IBM Institute for Business Value study, Millennials, GenXers and Baby Boomers all reported their most important goal is to make a positive impact on the organization where they work. All three generations also agreed on the second- and third-most important goals: to help solve social and/or environmental challenges, and to work with a diverse group of people.

Myth No.2: Millennials want constant acclaim and think everyone on the team should get a trophy.

The fact is, Millennials think a boss recognizing their accomplishments is less important than having a boss who is ethical, fair and transparent.

Myth No.3: Millennials are digital addicts who want to do — and share — everything online, without regard for personal or professional boundaries.

Although Millennials grew up in a digital world and are the first digital natives in the workforce, the study found that their top three preferences for learning new skills at work are not virtual but rather face to face: attending a third-party sponsored conference/event (39%), attending in-person classroom training (37%), and working alongside knowledgeable colleagues (36%).

Myth No.4: Millennials, unlike their older colleagues, can't make a decision without first inviting everyone to weigh in.

The study showed that Gen Xers are the group most likely to solicit advice at or about work, at 64%, while Millennials and Baby Boomers typically do so at rates of 56% and 49%, respectively.

Myth No. 5: Millennials are more likely to jump ship if a job doesn’t fulfill their passions.

The three generations surveyed all reported the same top reasons for leaving jobs: more money and a more creative workplace. While almost one-third of Millennials have already had five or six jobs, their reason for this is more about getting ahead and making a difference than simply seeing the grass as always greener.

With Millennials expected to become the workforce majority by the end of 2015 and to make up 75% of workers by 2030, according to the U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics, it behooves managers to understand the similarities among them and older generations. “The future of work is now,” Cran says. “And it’s all about people being able to innovate and collaborate with a variety of different people, different cultures, different generations and more.”

Published: August 25, 2015