Myths, Misconceptions and Truths About Millennials in the Workforce:

millennials in the workforce myths and misconceptionsPut your hard hats on… we’re in a construction zone!

The Millennials in the workforce ….some 80 million of them.

They are now the largest generation in the workforce!

Our work environments will never be the same!

It is time for bosses to repair your work environment pot holes, for this new breed of worker, is changing the landscape, and creating bumps in the road.   

It is time to Merge with multiple generations in today’s workforce!

generational diversity of millennials in the workforceThe days of suits and ties are gone, along with the “dead-end jobs and the martini lunch.” It is now iPods, iPads, flip flops, sandals and tattoos. 

Attention: bosses, managers, leaders, the 50 to 60 year olds…. the ones who need to change is you…. you need to learn to work with them… not the other way around!   

It is time for YOU to learn how to work with the Millennial, If you do not learn how to work with this generation, it will be their way or the highway… because job hopping is no problem for this generation.

Time to set the Record Straight

Based on my 20+ years of original research on the generations, leadership, and management roles. Including my most recent motivational study on 3,000 working Millennials.  Many of the negative stereotypes and thinking about the Millennial Workforce is based on a lack of understanding or are outright wrong. Unfortunately this generation is the most misunderstood.

Time to BUST the Myths, and Misconceptions and unveil the Truths

The Problems with Working with Millennials in The Workforce

the problems with working with millennials in the workforceMany of the clients I work with say that they struggle in working with this generation. It is important to understand that the Millennial Generation holds the keys to the growth and success of your company. While over 25% are on the front lines right now, within the next few years, they will be the managers and leaders of your organization. To gain the competitive advantage all employees must learn how to communicate and work effectively together.   

Myth: The Millennial Workforce is “lazy, sloppy, arrogant, cocky, entitled, undisciplined and not willing to pay their dues.”  

BUSTED: This is a tech savvy, multi-task- walk, talk, text and type generation. Many of this Millennial generation are hard working, with the tools to get things done quickly. They are clever, and resourceful problem solvers.

TRUTH #1: What few people realize is that many of these exact words were said about them and their generation. For example in Life Magazine, 1968, similar words were used in talking about the Boomer Generation (those born between 1946-1964). The older generation said that the Boomers were so undisciplined and felt so entitled, that they will never be able to lead a company let alone a country. Those same terms were used again in Time Magazine 1980 in talking about Generation X ( those born between 1965-1980) and then again in Time Magazine in 2000 in talking about the 

millennial workforce myths

Millennials. Clearly every older generation has used the same or similar terminology for the next younger generation.

TRUTH #2: On the flip side Millennials often complain that the older generations are yellers and screamers and frankly are “out of touch.” These same words were also by Boomers in describing the Traditionalists and by Generation X in talking about the Boomers. 

MYTH: Why Are Millennials So Different… They should be like “us.”

BUSTED: Each generation has unique characteristics, and each older generations have had to learn how to adapt to the younger generation. 

TRUTH: What many don’t realize is that the events of our youth during our formative years has a significant impact on our values, beliefs and workplace expectations. Clearly, to understand and communicate effectively with each generation it is beneficial to know the circumstances that helped shape that generation, which often sheds light on why a specific generation acts is a certain way.  

For more information on the specific characteristics of the Millennials, read my article on The High Cost of Millennials in the Workplace. 

MYTH: This Younger Generation Isn’t That Important

BUSTED Truth: The 60 million Boomers changed the work environment, and their buying and spending patterns changed retail.  There are 80-90 million Millennials! They are in the workforce now and their buying and spending patterns are starting to be felt in many industries….from clothes they buy, vacations they take, restaurants they visit, to the homes they buy, and places they live. Organizations that do NOT adapt to the Millennial Workforce…will be left behind. We are already seeing former big brands like JC Penny and Sears close due to the failure to adapt to new generations.        

MYTH: Millennials Need to “Pay Their Dues!”

BUSTED:  The term “ paying your dues” was started during a time when employees learned the job by an apprenticeship type of program.  Often people were not educated, and some with only a grade school or high school education.

Prior to the Boomers only about 3% of Traditionalists (those born between 1922 -1945) had more than a high school education. When the Boomers came along 30% were college graduates.  Imagine how Traditionalists must have felt having a large mass of young college educated workers. Frankly, the Traditionalists did not know how to manage a new worker that was competent in many skills, before arriving on the job.

Millennial Worker Myths: Education holds the key to reducing job hopping and making the workplace better for everyone! Click To Tweet

Education Holds One Clue to Millennials in the Workforce

Education is one key influencer in understanding the different generations.

Educating the millennials workforceEducation continues to be one of the key factors in understanding the generations. Generation X – about 60% have college degrees, and for the first time roughly 58% of Generation X women went on to get advanced degrees. With Millennials about 78% got college degrees, again with women leading the group. So in a short span of time, as a country, we have gone from an apprenticeship mindset to an educated mindset.

Women in the workforce. Prior to World War II, “a women’s place was in the home,” she raised the children, and took care of the home. During WWII women started entering the workforce…initially  it was to support the war effort.  When Boomer women entered the workforce, they were educated. Traditionalist male bosses…were already trying to figure out men with college degrees and now women too. By the time Generation X women entered the workforce many had advanced degrees. Which again changed the workforce landscape.      

Not so long ago, someone with an advanced degree was seen as noteworthy, special, ….today it is seen as common place, and in some cases now expected. Education has touched every industry. A quick example, at one time if you were pretty good with numbers, you could call yourself a Public Accountant. Today, you need education, and certifications, to be a Certified Public Accountant (CPA).   

TRUTH: One interesting note about education, is the types of degrees available and the fields of study. Many subjects studied today were not available just a few years ago. For example, computer forensics  and bio-engineering are new fields of study. A degree in robotics was not available for Boomers, and was a fairly new field of study for Generation X engineers.  Today some  grade school Generation i students ( those born after 2000) are learning the basics of computer coding and robotics in grade school!  ( FYI: the “i” designation stands for iPhone, iPad, iPod- since this generation is growing up with these tools used at school and in the home). Take note…as Gen i gets older, and technology advances, some of jobs of the future, haven’t even been invented, discovered, or realized yet.   

Organizations and bosses need to be open to new ways of doing business. It will be your Millennial worker that will see potential problems, and have the innovative skills to tackle that problem head on.    

TRUTH: Millennials hear the phrase “paying your dues” and have a different meaning.

millennial workers paying their duesIt is not some old belief about hierarchy and working your way up some ladder. They see the term as a universal truth about creating personal success by learning each day, finding your passion, discovering humility, and developing resilience.   

Continual Learning Experiences

The Millennial worker has continued to have learning opportunities outside of formal school. Through volunteering, they have built homes in Kenya, been to Machu Pitcchu to help excavate it, helped clean up after hurricane disasters, participated in water testing, animal management, soup kitchens, and been active in cleaning up their community parks and recreation areas.

This translates directly into the workplace. This generation is ready for new learning experiences. Continual learning is part of their makeup and their desire to work for a company that offers learning opportunities.    

MYTH: Management Skills Training of 10-20+ years ago works GREAT

Management skills for millennialsBUSTED: The Old BLAH, BLAH, BLAH management skills do NOT work for the Millennial Workforce

Each older generation has had to adjust their thinking and work practices based upon the next generation of worker.

TRUTH: New Approaches and Ways of Working With Millennials in the Workforce

What is important to understand is each generation as a cohort, has brought new approaches and views to the workforce environment. Additionally, what was new for one generation becomes expected by the next.

For example, Generation X, was the first to bring “true teamwork” into the workforce environment. For Boomers, the working environment was very autocratic. Command and control. So for Boomers… “teamwork” was just a term that meant ‘do you follow what you’re told, and don’t talk back or offer an opposing point of view.’ 

While the “theories of team dynamics” had been around for years, no one really experienced or knew what it meant to “work as a team”,  including offering different points of views, brainstorming ideas other than the leaders view, and how to work synergistically together. Just as Generation X taught us what true teamwork is…..Millennials in the workforce now expect cohesive team environments as a norm.

So bosses… it is no longer about shouting commands, it is more about coaching. It is no longer, “you go to do this,” or “you got to do that” … the focus is on coaching rather than bossing employees. Today, managers and leaders need to learn how to partner and influence….. not command and control. Learning how to use “power questions,” “directive and non-directive coaching techniques,” and understanding how to break through the blocks of performance through coaching . Because this generation will walk! Every major company knows, from law firms to restaurants to manufacturing, this generation is their future! 

Myth: “They need to conform to our 9-5 work schedule”

Truth: Many companies have “ flexible work hours” and they believe in “work- life balance” in their HR policies and promotional materials, but the realities do not align.

Time to WALK THE TALK!  

If you have these policies you need to follow through. 

millennials want partnersIT ALL STARTED WITH GENERATION X.  Generation X was the first generation that had to deal with both parents in the workforce, so many Gen X’ers were latchkey kids. Additionally, 50% of this generation had to cope with their parents divorcing. They had to deal with mom’s new boyfriend and dad’s new girlfriend, new siblings, and extended family members. Because of the Gen X home life as a youth, the older Generation X employee wanted the ability to have some flexibility in working hours.…hence the birth of work-life balance, and flextime.  They wanted to work, but also have time to spend with their children and families.

Dads for the first time in history, were juggling work responsibilities to offer support and be actively engaged in raising their children. Prior to Generation X raising the children was solely the wife’s responsibility. So Generation X men pushed for flexible work hours, and ‘work-life balance.’ The consequence… the Millennial workforce now expects work hour flexibility and work-life balance benefits. Companies today are faced with a Millennial workforce who sees face-to-face meetings as optional, rolling into work at noon, or planning their workday around their yoga class.  And companies that do not offer these benefits are seen as “out of touch with todays realities.”     

Problem… What if we can’t offer flextime?

There are some businesses, such as retail, call centers, manufacturing, or restaurants, that need to have employees available on set schedules. Be up front about it. Give the rationale as to why you need employees available at certain times. However…. you can still offer some flexibility. Can you offer a 8-4 shift or a 9-5 shift, 7-3 shift, etc. Can the schedule be flexible? Can employees substitute for one another? Time to think out of the box around scheduling.   

MYTH: They “Always Want Blue Ribbons and Trophies”

BUSTED: One of the stereotypes I encounter is the belief that Millennials wants or expects,  blue ribbons, awards and trophies.  I need to bust this myth. It was never the millennial children that demanded the rewards, but the parents that wanted the ribbons and rewards. The parents were focused on building self-esteem and they thought the ribbons and trophies were important to achieve their self-esteem goal.  These are the same doting parents that had the “Caution, Baby on Board” signs displayed in the back window of the car. They wanted everyone to know they had precious cargo in the car, and wanted other drivers to be cautious.   

The Role of Self-Esteem

hr training, millennial job hoppingWhy were the parents of Millennials so focused on building self-esteem? Why were they so insistent on their children getting appreciated for trying, for participating, or doing good work with blue ribbons, etc? The parents, did not get the appreciation they felt they deserved from their overbearing parents or current autocratic managers. These parents wanted their children to believe that they could do and be anything they dreamed to do. So, they wanted to make sure their children felt appreciated.

It was during this same time that slapping or spanking children by parents or teachers was seen as child abuse, and destroying the self-esteem in children.  So slapping a child on the knuckles with a ruler, or spanking  a child was now forbidden instead of the norm, as it was for Boomers and many GenXer’s.  Everytime a Boomer or GenXer got spanked or slapped, they vowed that would never happen to their children, which lead to the push for building self-esteem in their children. 

MYTH: “I Pay Them, That is Good Enough”

BUSTED: That has never been good enough. Just the Millennials are more vocal about appreciation.

TRUTH: Building self-esteem and appreciation as children, now translates directly into the work environment. Recognition around doing good work is expected for the Millennial workforce. Another example of what was started by parents, is now expected by the Millennial workforce children.  Need to remember that this younger generation felt a sense of accomplishment from both their parents and from the computer and video games they played. Millennials while not looking for blue ribbons and trophies, a “simple great job” is appreciated.

In one of my motivational studies, Boomers and Gen X’ers both complained that they seldom ever got thanked by their boss for doing a good job. Both generations complained that managers needed to express honest appreciation for their job efforts.

Here comes the Millennials.  This younger generation is voicing this annoyance for lack of appreciation. Managers do NOT need a big fanfare, cakes, or balloons, just a simple no cost, “thanks” is perfect. Companies today must realize that operating from the old “business-as-usual” ethic of “I pay them, that’s good enough” ….is for the birds. And if you persist in this outdated thinking and belief…. the Millennial Workforce will tell you to take this job and shove it!

I had one Gen X engineer tell me that he has several patents for a new energy efficient product his company is producing. This new product has added millions and millions of dollars to the company’s bottom line. He commented that it would have been nice to have gotten a “Thank You” or just some sort of recognition for this outstanding achievement from his boss. To this day this Gen X  engineer still believes the CEO needed to personally thank him. If this inventor was a Millennial… he would most likely be working for another company. 


The bottom line… at an all-hands meeting, recognize the achievements of department team members.  It should not be a surprise, that all your employees, no matter the generation, will appreciate the recognition. Managers, when was the last time you sent a short e-mail or a short, hand written note telling an employee you appreciate them and recognize their efforts.

Work with Deanne Demarco 708 836-0118

MYTH: The Normal Semi-Annual Reviews are Good Enough

BUSTED: Since Generation X it’s never been good enough.

One area of conflicting points of view is around feedback. Baby Boomers, frankly did not want feedback, “no news was good news.” For fear of being outsourced out of job, the Boomer was happy not getting feedback and being “called into the managers office.” Negative feedback was seen as criticism and often times managers communicated threats of losing your job if you did “not  fix” the performance issue. So, no news was good news.  So the semi-annual review was “ good enough” for Boomers.

Generation X wanted more frequent feedback, up dates, progress, problems and solutions. It has taken many years for Gen X’ers to get to the level of manager. Many of those who have made the manager ranks,  have implemented more frequent feedback tools. The problem is the number of GenXer’s in the workforce wasn’t enough to push the feedback model. 

Millennials grew up playing computer video games. In playing these games… the player knew instantly if they were winning or losing that round of play. This translates directly for the Millennial in the workforce.  Millennials do not want to wait six months, for the semi-annual “review” to find out if they are doing well, or if they need to make corrections.

TRUTH: In contrast to the Boomer, the Millennial workforce is a polar opposite. In playing computer games they received instant feedback on whether they were winning or losing that level in their game. If they lost the young Millennial would start problem solving and strategizing to “win” the next level of play. Now comes this seasoned problem solving, instant feedback generation into the workforce. It should not be a surprise that this Millennial generation expects instant feedback- are they winning at work? What are the tips, strategies, or information they need to “win.” They look for BOTH positive and corrective information. Millennials want to know what they are doing right, but also what needs be improved. They do not want to wait for the typical 6 month review.  

Myth: The Millennial Worker Should be “Seen and Not Heard!”

millennial employeesMisunderstood: One complaint I hear all the time is how outspoken the Millennial workers are. How “they” will walk into the CEO’s office to tell him/ her their ideas for solving a company problem they have experienced or witnessed. This group does not believe they have to go through their manager or a “chain of command” and if they can help solve a problem the “CEO would be crazy” not to want to know about it. There are few factors that have contributed to the Millennials line of thinking.

            First: Their parents often gave their child choice. As a child they got to choose what they wanted to wear to school, wanted for a snack, and sometimes what they wanted for dinner. This lead to making decisions early. If a child made a poor decision, the parent would have a calm conversation with them about making good choices.

            Second: This child was listened to, not told to be quiet and “ be seen but not heard.” Just the opposite, the millennial generation was asked to contribute their ideas to conversations, which included planning family outings and vacations.  

            Third: Video games. Playing video games cultivated problem solving skills and strategic decision making skills, very early. So, one powerful strength of the Millennial Workforce is their ability to solve problems. Unfortunately, older generations are often intimidated by their problem solving skills.

            Fourth: Millennials grew up helping each other. When a friend needed advice, tip, or strategy on solving a video game problem or a school work problem, they helped each other.

            Fifth: Asked advice.  When the Millennial had a problem at school, such as relationship issues, they would often go to their parents, close family friends, or relatives for advice. Many times these conversations would include possible outcomes.   

These five elements directly translate into the Millennial workforce. The Millennial worker is an educated,  strategic problem solver, with an entrepreneurial spirt whose ideas and suggestions have always been welcomed and encouraged and listened too. This generation thrives on meeting the next challenge and solving the new problem.  It should not be a surprise that when a problem arises, this Millennial is looking for the solution. And when a solution is figured out, in the Millennials mind, why wouldn’t the CEO want to hear about it!  

Myth: Millennials are NOT Loyal and Job Hop

millennials in the workforce job hopMisunderstood Reality: Millennials WILL be loyal to the relationships at work… but not to the company.

Many complain that Millennials lack loyalty and job hop. There are a number of reasons why Millennials have have had several jobs since graduating high school or college. I cover this topic in some depth in my post of this subject.  Just briefly:


            * First, Millennials were taught at an early age that companies are not loyal to their employees. Many of their parents experienced downsizing and outsourcing, and many were forced out of their jobs by the age of 50. This generation saw their parents “settle” for a job that was not their first choice, or “settle” for an unhealthy or even hostile work environment. They witnessed so many sacrifices made by their parents to achieve security at home which had a huge impact on them. It was engrained to look for the right job, the right fit. And to take care of yourself. Family and friends are their new priorities, not blind careerism. It is clearly “lifestyle, friends and family above work.” 

            * Second, the price of education soared and many are faced with huge educational debt. So, they are looking for a salary that will help them with this debt.

            * Third, this is a generation where learning and knowledge is ever present and readily available.       

            * The Millennial Generation wants to make a difference. 

            * Fourth, When you compile all this information on the Millennials you soon realize that the bottom line is workplace culture. Millennials, want a work environment that is nurturing, transparent, and where TRUST and RESPECT rule the actions of all employees…. starting with the CEO and executive team.  

The Bottom line…. Millennials want a good workplace culture. Where employees thrive and grow. 85% are saying if the culture is not right…. they will leave. 65% are saying that if the reputation of the company is poor, they will not even apply.   Businesses today need to avoid operating under outdated notions and align their work environment to the needs of today’s Millennial workforce.  

Related Content: How to Reduce Millennial Job Hopping

5 Tips in Working With Millennials in The Workforce

          working with millennials in the workforceThe employee experience. Companies spend lots of money on having the “right” customer experience. The Millennials are expecting the “right” employee experience. Is YOUR company a place others WANT to work?  Are you a peer,  manager, or leader who can be trusted and that others WANT to be around

            First: Respect and Trust- Are you trustworthy? Do you respect others? Millennials value these two qualities above all else. Many talk a good game, but they do not follow through. Respect  and trust is a two way street. It is not years of service, or title, or position in the company, or degrees after your name, it is how you interact with others. Respect in how you talk to others, but also how you talk ABOUT others. Trusting relationships are transparent and respectful. 

            Second: Flexibility. Millennials do not want to be chained to a desk. Work productivity needs be evaluated on the finished product not how many hours it took you to do the job, or where you completed the job.  This generation is faster, and more efficient. “Busy work” is seen as unnecessary and pointless.

            Third: Teams and partners. This is a generation that grew up with friends, and many of them, that they still keep in contact with.  In my post on Millennials in the Workplace, I talked about their heroes. This generation is looking for partnerships not dictators.  Cohesive workplace teams not isolated silos.   

  millennials in the workplace want partners        Fourth: Openness and mutual accountability. Millennials in the Workforce want honest feedback, good and corrective. Feedback that is timely, specific, and helpful… and not condescending. They want to work in an environment where managers and leaders are receptive to change or new ideas… total openness to all points of views… from everyone! So a diversity of ideas. Accountability is universal, where everyone holds each other accountable… including managers and leaders… not just employees.

            Fifth: Making a Difference. Organizational alignment of individual skills and organizational needs. How is the work they are doing making a difference. Clarity on purpose and the right tools and learning experiences to keep them current on  information so they can do their best work.       

5 Tips for Working With Millennials in the Workforce. Click To Tweet

The Time is NOW

It is time to challenge century-old assumptions about workforce talent and the relationships between workers, managers, leaders, and corporate culture. We are entering into a new era of more effective teams and organizations guided by a new generation of authentic, purposeful and participatory leaders.

It is time to get serious about generational diversity, and understand that the millennials in your workforce matter and are the key to the success of your organization in the future. 

It is time to learn how to work with Millennials, the myths, misconceptions, and value they bring to your organization.

Important if you manage #Millennials in the #Workforce: #Respect, Trust, Flexibility, Teams & Partners, Mutual #Accountability. Click To Tweet

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Are You Looking for the Formula for Working Effectively with the Millennial Generation?

            Are you looking for the latest information and issues affecting talent, communication, and business culture to build workplace synergies?

            Are you looking to build consensus for action, in order to gain the competitive advantage?

            Are you looking to create a workplace environment where people want to work?

            Are you looking to reduce job hopping turnover rates? 

Customized Human Resources Training for Human Resources Professionals

human resources training chicagoDeanne Demarco is a generations business culture strategist and works individually with companies who are looking for current in-depth information, practical strategies and proven solutions that leaders and managers face in today’s multi-generational workforce.

Her speeches and workshops are designed to do just that. With humor, rich facilitated discussions, case studies and the latest understanding of employee engagement, motivation, and collaboration. – “I help you to energize your team, create those ah-ha moments, adjust a few attitudes , and work through ideas and approaches that are best suited to meet your organization’s needs.”

All sessions are customized to the specific needs and interests of the group and can be presented in either a keynote or interactive workshop. For workshops, she has developed a number of fun, interactive group exercises specifically designed to encourage participation, learning, and workplace application.  

Deanne also offers her clients a bi-weekly newsletter, BizTips, exploring cutting edge topics, and issues facing business leaders, including the changing workforce.

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Call Deanne today at 708-836-0118 or e-mail her at for more information on how she can help your organization create a corporate culture Where People Want to Work!

Deanne DeMarco: Business Culture Strategist, Author, Generations Gaps: Manage and Communicate Effectively