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Busting myths about millennials in the workplace

March 17, 2015

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We’ve written plenty of stories this year about millennials, and their attitudes toward money. But as millennials in the workplace begin to shape and make key business decisions, a new report from IBM says it’s time to debunk common myths and reveal uncomfortable truths.

In a multigenerational study of 1,784 employees from businesses across 12 countries and 6 industries, IBM compared the preferences and behavioral patterns of millennials with those of Gen X (born 1965 –1979) and Baby Boomers (born 1954 – 1964).

“We discovered that millennials want many of the same things their older colleagues do,” said the report. “While there are some distinctions among the generations, millennials’ attitudes are not poles apart from other employees.”

The report says the buzz has gone one of two ways: either millennials are “lazy, entitled, selfish and shallow,” or they’re energized optimists bent on saving the world. The reality, it seems, is somewhere in between.

The IBM report busts five myths:

  1. Millennials’ career goals and expectations are different from those of older generations. Instead, IBM’s findings indicate millennials have similar career aspirations to those of older generations, including wanting financial security and seniority just as much as Gen X and Baby Boomers, and all three generations want to work with a diverse group of people.
  2. Millennials want constant acclaim and think everyone on the team should get a trophy. When asked to describe their perfect boss, millennials say they want a manager who’s ethical, fair and transparent more than one who recognizes their accomplishments.
  3. Millennials are digital addicts who want to do — and share — everything online, without regard for personal or professional boundaries. While they’re active online, they prefer face-to-face contact when learning new skills at work. And they are more likely to draw a firm line between their personal and professional social media networks than Gen X or Baby Boomers.
  4. Millennials, unlike their older colleagues, can’t make a decision without first inviting everyone to weigh in. Despite their reputation for crowdsourcing, Millennials are no more likely than many of their older colleagues to solicit advice at work.
  5. Millennials are more likely to jump ship if a job doesn’t fulfill their passions. Not true. When they change jobs, they do so for much the same reasons as Gen X and Baby Boomers, including more money and a more innovative environment.

For story ideas, poll local employers about the balance of of their workplaces or find local events that cater to Millennials.


“Myths, exaggerations and uncomfortable truths,” IBM Report On Millennials

Pew Research Center, Millennials

The Millennial Generation Research Review, U.S. Chamber of Commerce Foundation


  • Benét J. Wilson

    Benét, known as the Aviation Queen, is a senior editor at TPG who is best known for being an aviation journalist for 25-plus years. Her love affair with travel and aviation began at age 6, when her Air Force family moved from California to a military...

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