Are millennials really as bad as everyone says?

Posted in : HR Updates on 12 June 2018
Olga Pollock
firmus energy
Issues covered:

'Are millennials really as bad as everyone says?' This was a question posed during a recent panel discussion that I took part in related to attracting talent in the millennial era.

It's an interesting question. If you type millennial into Google you'll quickly discover that there are a lot of negative comments out there about this selfish 'me me me' generation. They're the tech-savvy lot who lack loyalty and have with little regard to their elders but expect to be given everything on a plate.

In December 2016 Simon Sinek took part in an interview to share his views on what he perceived to be an entitled generation, spoiled by medals and parents who told them they were special.  But is it ok to generalise about a generation of people roughly between the ages of 18 and 38; depending on what reference you source? That's a huge age range and when you think of it, even in the same family, how many siblings do you know that share exactly the same traits with their brother or sister? Well that's certainly not the case in our house!

Helen Tynan, Head of People Operations for EMEA at Google would argue differently stating that while millennials 'are sometimes typified as being lazy or self-absorbed; that is certainly not our experience.' So, when it comes to managing millennials in the workplace surely it would seem more sensible to focus on individuals rather than the general traits across a large population. After all, we can't assume that every person in one generation will display exactly the same characteristics.

It boils down to understanding what motivates people and that varies from person to person and over time. We may well be motivated to work harder coming up to an annual bonus when we know that it will help towards the cost of our summer holiday, but does money motivate us for the remainder of the year? For some people it may but for others this may not be the case so tarring everyone with the same brush is unlikely to motivate everyone.

And when we examine employee engagement in a wider context it is important that organisations have a vision and that everyone knows their place in how the company is working towards that. This is demonstrated powerfully in the famous adage about the janitor in NASA when President JFK was visiting the NASA headquarters in 1961 and he asked the janitor what his job was to which he replied, 'I'm helping put a man on the moon!'.

Despite the drawbacks of generalisations, it can be useful to be aware of typical millennial drivers in terms of career development and job stability. According to a 2017 millennial survey carried out by Deloitte, millennials 'value variety within the bounds of full-time stability'. Also, the importance of good management can never be underestimated as the line manager is key in the employment relationship.

Finally, too often organisations fail to communicate and consult with staff. No matter how well planned our engagement strategy is, if we don't involve our staff then it can end up backfiring as people perceive that new interventions are being imposed on them. It is easy to label people as millennials, Xers or baby boomers based on stereotypes, but we need to devote our energy into talking to staff directly and finding out about what makes them happy regardless of what year they were born in.

This article is correct at 12/06/2018

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Olga Pollock
firmus energy

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