There have been think pieces published ad nauseum about generational practices and preferences at work. Millennials have been in the forefront as the generation du jour and it’s common for journalists and researchers to say that as a group, millennials value work-life balance and aren’t as professionally driven as their predecessors.
Over the past ten years, I’ve been in numerous meetings or conversations where someone has painted millennials with a broad brush. They are idealists. They are selfish. They aren’t committed to work. They aren’t concerned about starting families. All they care about is technology. They have limited attention spans. They can’t save money because they’re drowning in debt. They won’t commit to one job for very long.
I know people that may fall into some of these categories but many more that do not. From young professionals that work around the clock to new parents that work from home, millennials are forging career paths for themselves in a way that has transformed the workforce. I have friends that refuse to check work email on nights and weekends and others who would be extremely anxious at the mere thought of those kind of boundaries. Millennials are innovators as well as 9 to 5’ers. Young women have become breadwinners and young men are taking paternity leave. There are CEOs under 30 who’ve worked tirelessly to found their own companies and lifelong students who have four degrees but have never held an actual job.
Millennials aren’t the first generation to be reduced to stereotypes and they certainly won’t be the last but we should learn from this silly exercise that occurs every decade that people are unpredictable. At best, preconceived notions about colleagues may be confirmed and that means negative stereotypes are fulfilled and resentment ensues. At worst, the constant berating of their choices will wear millennials down and make them frustrated and angry with their colleagues. Every individual deserves to be treated as a unique worker capable of making their own career choices and shaping their own professional path.