Millennials face a lot of criticism. Some of it may be deserved, but a lot of it isn't. This generation comprises an enormous percentage of the workforce, and its members are certainly changing the way people do business. But that's not a bad thing.
Perhaps more than previous generations, Millennials get a bad rap. Here are four negative stereotypes about Millennials in the workplace and how you can prove them wrong.
1. They're lazy and entitled.
Previous generations have, of course, faced criticism of being lazy in their youth, but this is one stereotype in particular that the Millennial generation seems to be unable to shake. Millennial employees are also likely to be percieved as entitled and unwilling to pay their dues in order to learn and grow in their profession.
Prove these negative stereotypes wrong by working hard and having a good attitude. Everyone has to start somewhere, so even if you're an assistant today, you could be a manager tomorrow (well, maybe not tomorrow, but in a few years). Maintain a positive attitude, and don't act like any task you perceive as menial is beneath you. Your Baby Boomer boss will most likely be impressed with your outlook, which can get you far.
Demonstrate your work ethic. Show up on time, if not earlier than you have to, and go above and beyond when completing your assignments. That's to say, don't do the bare minimum.
If you do want a special favor, make sure you have a valid reason and data to back up why it's important. For instance, if you want to telecommute to work, explain why, and show evidence that you and others actually work more productively from home. If you are granted that privilege, show your manager that she's made the right choice by putting in the hard work and producing.
2. They're self absorbed.
The fact is, everyone is self centered to some degree. That's because you're the star of your own life, as you should be. It's when you start acting like you're the star of other people's lives that this tends to get annoying.
In the workplace, exhibiting self absorption may suggest that you're not a team player or believe you deserve more credit than you actually do. If you're constantly trying to steal the limelight from coworkers or acting like you played a bigger role in a project than you actually did, you'll lose the trust of both your managers and your peers.
It's important to pay attention to the people around you and exercise humility. If someone has a big accomplishment, congratulate her. Even if you played a role in her getting there, wait for her to acknowledge it, rather than stealing the credit. Of course, if someone takes credit for your work completely or blames you for something you didn't do, you don't need to sit back and watch it happen. You should always stand up for yourself. But part of being a team player sometimes means allowing others to get the accolades.
You can take small steps to defy this stereotype of the Millennial generation, too. Simply asking colleagues how their day is going or offering assistance with a project shows them that you care and are willing to pitch in.
3. They lack loyalty.
One myth many Baby Boomers and Gen Xers often perpetuate is that Millennials are always looking for their next career move and have no loyalty to their current employers. However, according to a Pew Research Center study, Millennials actually stay with their job longer on average than their Gen X counterparts did when they were the age Millennials are now.
But just because this negative stereotype lacks validity doesn't mean the consequences of older generations and even peers believing it won't affect you. In order to show your employer that you're loyal, demonstrate strong work ethic and commitment by putting effort into your work and going above and beyond the requirements of your position to show that you really care about your job. Of course, taking these extra steps can also benefit you in other ways, such as leading to promotions or higher levels of responsibility.
It's true that young people change jobs frequently; sometimes, you can't advance in your career without trying something new, or you're just looking for different experiences. You should stay at a job for at least a year, though, so you don't come across as a job hopper to prospective employers. They will be wary of hiring someone with a track record of changing up jobs every few months, because who's to say you won't do the same thing to them?
4. They're obsessed with technology.
Millennials are digital natives. We grew up with computers, unlike Gen Xers, who lived much of their childhood and even young adulthood without them, depending on where they fall in the Gen X bracket. Baby Boomers, meanwhile, are pure digital immigrants.
The fact is, technology is essential to many jobs, but if you're working for a Baby Boomer manager, particularly one who isn't digitally adept, she may be less likely to understand why you need to be using technology. If this is the case, take the time to explain how technology helps you do your job well. For instance, you might learn about new trends in your industry through social media. In some fields, such as marketing, social media is a crucial aspect of your job. You might offer to show your boss some ways different digital tools can improve your own performance, as well as the company's—without overstepping or being condescending, of course.
It's true that some young people spend time on Facebook or Instagram when they should be working. The only remedy for that behavior is to stop doing it. You're only feeding into negative stereotypes and giving yourself a poor reputation as an employee.
You are not your generation
People of previous generations have different personalities and talents. That's to say, not every Gen Xer or Baby Boomer is exactly the same as the next. The same is true of Millennials. Unfortunately, Millennial workers face a fair amount of undue generational perception and negativity.
We make up the largest percentage of today's workforce, accounting for more than a third of all workers, according to Pew Research Center data. That means we play an enormous role in shaping the way people work.
If you're a Millennial worker, do your part to be the best employee you can be. You're representing your generation—and making a huge contribution to the world.