The reaction by Inc. readers to my recent article, 6 Really Dumb Moves: What Managers Should Never Do to Millennial Employees, hit a nerve, it appears, with not only Gen Xers (I am one) and Boomers, but other Millennials as well.
I presented evidence with several cited studies that helps leaders know how to manage and engage this digital generation -- now the largest share of the American work force.
On Twitter, reaction covered the spectrum from sarcasm to total resentment and discontent toward more spotlight being shined ad nauseam on this generation.
It's understandable. A quick Google search will give you 16 million different articles about how Millennials can either save the world, or be blamed for what's wrong with the world.
This fascination with Millennials has even spawned a whole new industry of experts -- consultants, speakers, and authors -- telling us that "Millennials are different."
But are they really? And should we really treat them any differently?
No, please, not another Millennial study. It happened.
The culprit this time is Forbes. They recently put out the results of their own 30 Under 30 survey highlighting the nature and desires of young entrepreneurs.
Obviously the survey is slanted toward a segment of influential, ambitious, and well-educated Millennial entrepreneurs in the U.S. who happen to be honorees of the Forbes Summit. Keep that in mind as you read the results.
Personally, as a Gen Xer, I found many things in common with them in relation to things like technology, buying behavior, and motivation for success.
That begs the question to put the incessant generational studies, Ted Talks, and endless stream of media content (including this one) to rest: Are Millennials that much different than Boomer and Gen Xers?
The other side of the research coin.
An analyst at Work Effects says its a big assumption -- unsupported by empirical evidence -- to support the billion-dollar theory that Millennials are distinctly different than other generations.
The characteristics of Millennials we read about in those well-designed infographics are really a function of age common among young employees entering the workforce, says the Work Effects analyst -- herself a Millennial -- in her report.
Apparently, little has changed over the last 30 years.
"Young people today tend to see themselves and their work environments in a similar way as did young people from previous generations."
Bruce Pfau, KPMG's Vice Chair of Human Resources and Communications, agrees. He cites numerous studies in his Harvard Business Review article, What Do Millennials Really Want at Work? The Same Things the Rest of Us Do.
"A growing body of evidence suggests that employees of all ages are much more alike than different in their attitudes and values at work. To the extent that any gaps do exist, they amount to small differences that have always existed between younger and older workers throughout history and have little to do with the Millennial generation per se."
Bringing it home
It's time we stop talking about how different Millennials are in the workplace. We have created a media frenzy through our most widely accepted stereotypes that reinforce false generalizations about a whole generation.
The truth is, we all want what Millennials want in these studies:
- Meaning and purpose in our work.
- Regular feedback from our bosses.
- Career development opportunities in companies that will invest in us.
- A good coach or mentor that will point us where we need to go.
- Recognition for doing good work.
- Freedom to make our own choices.
This obsession with Millennials distracts companies and its leaders from the real work -- creating democratic and profitable ecosystems where all generational employees can't wait to show up for work on Monday, and where all customers want their business.