After reading Next Ideas for Millennial Managers, it could appear that millennial recruits and employees need to be catered to in order to find, build, and keep them; which doesn’t necessarily help to break some of the less-than flattering stereotypes associated with this generation. Many times by trying to understand something in order better serve, we classify and qualify, which creates a framework under which we operate. Unfortunately, sometimes this framework frames a little too narrowly and we unintentionally end-up creating a box. Let’s step outside of the box regarding how we evaluate generational differences in the work-place. Are the generations really THAT different?

    As is pointed out by Geoff Colvin in an October 21st article in in Fortune Magazine online, “Three Big Mistakes Leaders Make When Managing Millennials”, under the heading of “Different Generations Aren’t Different Species”:

    On many important dimensions, millennials are remarkably like Gen Xers and baby boomers. Contrary to stereotype, in a recent IBM survey only 18% of millennials said “managing my work/life balance” is one of their top two career goals, vs. 22% of Gen Xers and 21% of baby boomers. Millennial employees are less likely than Gen Xers to use personal social media accounts for work purposes, says the same research. And millennials’ preferred method of learning new work skills is—brace yourself—face-to-face contact. [1]

    Maybe the generations are not so different? But make no mistake: The office environment had changed from what it was even as recent as 5-10 years ago, and it seems that the influx of millennials in the workforce is the culprit. Could it be that this is a “Bad Rap” hung on millennial generation?

    In Next Ideas for Millennial Management (as well as many magazine and journal articles on the subject) we see statements like these fill the pages:

    Millennials like flexible work schedules.

    Millennials like to collaborate.

    Millennials like their careers to have higher purpose.

    Let’s take these “Likes” under consideration, and for the moment ignore specific individual preferences. Would it not be safe to say in reply to the above assertions, regardless of generation, “Who doesn’t?" Who wouldn’t like flexibility around work schedules, or to collaborate to take some of the burden off one’s shoulders, or feel like what is done at work contributes something more than money to the bank account? But the rub here is that Gen Xers and baby boomers were not given that option upon entering the workforce (I know I wasn’t). Could the source of the seeming friction between the generations in the workforce be somewhat a question of sour grapes? “Why are THEY given that option and we weren’t?” Maybe. Maybe not. The issue seems to lie beyond that.

    What we are experiencing in the modern work-environment may not a generational revolution, but rather an EVOLUTION, very much similar to the evolution in thinking we are experiencing around top-down, autocratic leadership styles to a more “servant” leadership mind-set. It’s doubtful that this practice changed so much simply because employees didn’t like it; it was more likely a questions that this style was no longer working. Likewise, might the trend towards more open, flexible, and personally/socially rewarding work environments may be an extension of how people are coming to function in the modern world? Instead of thinking of the creation of an open, flexible, collaborative, and personally/socially fulfilling work environment as “catering to millennials”, it may be time to think of it as creating a 21st Century work environment. In conjunction with the techniques employed for leveraging diversity in the work place, making this mental leap of “creating a modern work environment” will help stop calling attention to the generational stereotypes and by doing so help diffuse them. . . then it just becomes a question of dealing with “personalities”.

    [1]Colvin, G. (2016, October 16). Three Big Mistakes Leaders Make When Managing Millennials. Retrieved January 25, 2017, from