my boss is obsessed with treating me like a millennial

A reader writes:

My boss seems to be hung up on the idea of me being a “millennial.”

A few months ago my boss, who is in her upper 50’s, told me she purchased a few books about “millennials” so she could understand how I think and communicate. We’re an office of three and I’m 25 and the youngest person she has ever managed, besides the occasional intern. At first I was flattered, I thought it seemed like a nice effort to help bridge our differences. Then a few weeks ago I accidentally caught an email on the printer where she was discussing the problem of “leading one of her employees who is a classic millennial.”

It seems to be something she is bringing up in conversation more and more often, and I get the sense that she is using it to categorize me and judge me in ways that aren’t positive. We’ve had our differences and I’ve struggled personally to work with her. I don’t see her as a very capable or competent leader, although I keep those thoughts to myself.

Personally, I don’t appreciate being labeled this way. Should I approach her and ask her to stop referring to me that way or should I just let it drop? What do you think about “millennials?” Is the concept of generalizing an entire generation based on perceived stereotypes effective?

It’s true that the influence of trends in things like parenting, pop culture, and education create common value systems that broadly distinguish people growing up in a particular time from people who grew up at different times. And it’s also true that some things are more commonly true of particular age groups than of others (for instance, 22-year-olds are less likely to have a skillful command of office politics than 48-year-olds; that’s true of today’s 22-year-olds, and it was true of 22-year-olds 30 years ago). But these are generalizations. As with any generalization, you can’t just assume that they’re true at the individual level. That’s the whole thing about generalizations. Assuming they apply at the individual level is wrong-headed, obnoxious, and ineffective.

So … taking an interest in how changing social norms have created different values and orientations in particular demographics is fine. It’s interesting and useful in some contexts. But deciding to see one particular person through the lens of their generation and tailoring all your interactions with them accordingly is ridiculous.

Which means that your boss is being inane here. It’s really not that different than if she told you that she purchased some books on astrology so that she could understand how to manage Scorpios.

As for what to do about it … Is she someone who reacts reasonably well to feedback? If so, you could consider saying something like this: “Jane, I’ve noticed you’ve mentioned millennials a lot in reference to me. I’ve done a lot of reading about generational differences, and my sense is that while there are some interesting broad trends about my generation, much of it doesn’t apply to me or plenty of my peers. I’m a little unnerved to think that I’m being related to as a particular generational type, when I’d so much rather be related to based on what I actually show you of my skills and work habits. I’m sure you would feel the same way if I were seeing you as a baby boomer first and foremost and filtering our interactions through that lens.”

However, you mentioned that you’ve had differences with her before, so it’s possible that this will just add to the tensions between you.

If that seems likely to be the case, a different way to go about this would be to simply present a counterpoint to her thinking the next time she brings millennials up. For instance:

Her: “I know that as a millennial, you don’t like to do any work that’s boring.”

You: “Actually, I’ve read that about millennials too, but I’ve never felt that way. I’m actually eager to take on whatever I can do to help, and I know that at this stage in my career, there will plenty of work that isn’t glamorous. I welcome it. In fact, I’ve found a lot of what I’ve read about millennials doesn’t really hold true at the individual level. I know you’re reading about this and finding it interesting — what else have you found?”

From there, see if you can’t get into a deeper conversation with her about this stuff. By delving into this area that she clearly finds fascinating and relating your own experiences versus what’s supposed to be true of your generation, you might broaden her perspective a bit. If nothing else, you’ll have at least signaled that the very person she’s applying all this theory to doesn’t think it fits.

{ 463 comments… read them below }

  1. Anonymous*

    Why does she have this obsessive need to study you? Has she never seen a millennial before?

  2. Mena*

    I suggest you ask to borrow the book that she’s basing her conclusions on; give it a read. How do you/do you not fit in with this generalization? Then, you may want to gently intervene when she makes mention (speaking in the moment), citing the book (but I would avoid this in front of others). The key is to avoid any and all of the negative characteristics attributed to millenials.

    And please don’t read her items sitting on the printer.

    1. Midge*

      The boss shouldn’t be sending private emails complaining about her difficult employees to the communal printer (which I what I’m assuming happened based on the OP’s language). That’s highly unprofessional!

      1. 2 cents*

        Since there is always a risk of others reading confidential items on a communal printer, a good response from the OP would have been to take the email printout directly to her supv or put it in her mailbox with a note stating that it was on the printer when she went to retrieve her own documents, and then gently suggest that the supv should set up and make use of the User Box function so that the supv had more control of private and confidential items and could print them on demand instead of risking sensitive information accidentally being read by others should she get sidetracked on her way to the printer. Of course, then offer help in setting it up if the supv had any questions. And in doing so, it should then be obvious and go without saying, that these types of skillsets are an asset that Milleniels in general bring to the workforce table, and hopefully will be a chance for the supv to realize that she has prejudged and stereotyped rather than genuinely worked to get to know her employee and should spend more face time with the OP rather than read a book and observe.

        1. Tinker*

          That actually sounds to me like it’d play directly into the Millennial stereotype, even for a person not as apparently prone to it as the OP’s boss.

        2. amaranth16*

          I think there’s a serious risk the boss would read that as very passive-aggressive behavior. If I accidentally viewed my boss’s sensitive communications and I dropped them off with a sticky advising her on how to avoid having people viewing her sensitive communications, I don’t think it would go over well at all – it would read like the employee is trying to teach the boss a lesson.

          1. Ruffingit*

            Agreed and frankly I think it’s very possible the boss intended the OP to read that email seeing as how it’s an office of three. The boss must know that it would be one of the two others who would see it if she just “happened” to leave it on the communal printer.

    2. Katie*

      That’s lending entirely too much legitimacy to her boss’s crazy.

      Also, good bosses don’t leave sensitive e-mails about their employees lying around in public places. She should try protecting her employees’ privacy.

  3. Joey*

    Hmm. If she’s discussing leading a classic millennial and you admit that you’ve struggled working with her and don’t see her as very competent I wonder if you’re doing anything to validate her perceptions.

    1. Zelos*

      I think we’d need far more information before we can draw a conclusion on that. I mean, I was probably not the model worker when I was 22, but that had everything to do with my age and nothing to do with my generation.

      1. Joey*

        True, but a 25yr old describing his boss as incompetent and incapable fits right into the stereotype. And even if you keep those thoughts to yourself its damn hard to keep it from seeping into your actions and behaviors at work. While its possible that the boss is indeed not a good boss the op seems to be more worried about being called a millennial than finding ways to work better with her.

        1. Marissa*

          As someone who has been working since she was 16, there’s nothing telling about a 25 year old noting that her boss is incompetent. It doesn’t always take age or experience to correctly notice those things.

          1. Joey*

            But there is something telling about a person who asks about how to stop the boss from calling me a millennial vs. questioning whether he’s doing anything to reinforce the perception.

            1. Anon Millennial*

              How is the way the OP asked their question any different than the way tons of people who ask Alison questions have phrased things? Most OPs here assume they’re being wronged and are in the right, and Alison tries to point out that there are two sides. She always suggests that we first examine our own behavior and actions to see if we are contributing to the issue. If this person had mentioned they were 40 would you have assumed they might not be able to detect incompetence in their manager? What if that 40 year old is the now divorced “kept woman” from the previous post?

              1. Joey*

                Absolutely. I’d say the same thing to a 50 something who is complaining of being labeled a boomer when he’s exibiting boomer behavior.

            2. Zelos*

              You’ll see echoes of that in the letter of every person who felt that they’ve been wronged…regardless of their age. Granted, this is much more common in the younger generation, which in the current day are the millennials. But again, that’s a product of youth and not much else, in my opinion. A lot of people have said the same when their generation was the “young” one, whether they were Gen X, Baby Boomer, etc.

              Millennials have the internet going against them in that their mistakes are publicized and immortalized on the internet far more than any other prior generation, but I honestly don’t think my generation is any more spoiled or entitled than the ones before them. Our mistakes are just more publicized.

            3. ella*

              Well…there’s a couple assumptions here.

              1. Being a millennial is bad. (ie, it’s a perception that needs to be battled)
              2. Even if it was an accurate perception of the OP, it’s still obnoxious to be addressed as a member of a group, and not as a person. (Substituting nouns is dangerous but sometimes useful: “Hi, you’re the only black person in this office, so I read a book about being black in America so that I know how to talk to you.”)
              3. If the OP has bad work habits (which may or may not be related to their youth or their upbringing), that needs to be addressed. Whether or not their generational status contributed to those bad work habits is irrelevant.

            4. Elysian*

              So if my boss is calling me a teapot, and I supposed to ask myself “Man, I wonder if I exhibit spout-like qualities during our weekly group meetings? I sure hope I’m not doing anything to make my boss think of me in this kettle-esque manner.”

              No. I would try to figure out how to stop my boss from calling me a teapot. There’s nothing telling about it; its just a person requesting advice on correcting an incorrect behavior.

              1. Marcy*

                Actually, I WOULD want to know if I am doing something to make my boss think of me that way. I would be less concerned about the term used to describe my behavior.

            5. Mike C.*

              Yeah, that telling thing is the desire to be treated as a human being rather than a stereotype.

        2. Relosa*

          Leading and managing are not the same thing. Leading is the people part, management is the resource part. OP specifically referred to the boss’ leadership skills as sub par, not her entire skill set. And honestly there isn’t enough information about OP’s concerns to know whether or not there’s any merit to that claim.

          1. Ask a Manager* Post author

            I’d dispute that definition, a bit — managing covers tons of people parts — hiring, giving feedback, developing people, retaining people, firing people, checking in with people and their work, etc. I’d argue that to a large extent great leaders need to be great managers, and vice versa.

            1. Relosa*

              I don’t disagree that people require a bit of both–after all, they are always an organizations most valuable asset. However I believe the difference (that you highlight often on both the superior and subordinate side of things) is that you cannot make anyone do anything. They will make their own choice. leadership is the art if getting people to do something because they want to do it. Management, as I was taught it, is the act of implementing policy, SOP, contingency, and of course regular administrative and HR kind if stuff as it pertains to the staff. But IMO behavioral, social management, politics, employee counseling, and just good ol conduct…things that are largely independent of each unique person if the team…thats leadership.

              I just cringe when people talk about managing employees or managing their boss, when no one really can. People aren’t commodities. We can’t actually control them, but we can create an environment where they will likely/hopefully choose the decisions that best fit the organizations interests. To me that is the difference between management and leadership.

              my apologies for typos and brevity, both of these posts were written on my phone.

              1. Ask a Manager* Post author

                I think we differ on the definition of management though. I’d also include things like hiring, developing, retaining, firing, feedback, setting goals, setting a vision, etc. in management, not leadership. Your management list actually looks closer to an HR list to me!

        3. JH*

          There is a ring of truth to OP’s statement that the boss is incompetent and incapable. At the least, the boss isn’t very smart, given the fact he bought into the lie that an individual can be understood by simply assigning them a generational label and treating them accordingly. Buying a book on “millenials” in an effort to understand a younger employee? That’s beyond stupid.

        4. Nomore*


          The real issue here is the manager’s treatment of a younger coworker and her condescension. It is just as much a manager’s responsibility to learn to get along with others, especially if they want to be a manger. Kind of goes with the job, doesn’t it? But reading a book and complaining about “them younger kids” really doesn’t sound like the mark of a manager with the necessary maturity, experience, or business acumen for the job.

    2. Anon1973*

      It’s possible she’s just an incompetent manager that is a struggle to work with. I’ve had lots of those, and I’m not a millennial. It’s possible this particular manager is looking for excuses as opposed to dealing with the actual issues. It’s also possible the OP is a “classic millennial,” although I don’t believe a “classic millennial” would write to an advice column and use the language the OP did.

      1. AJ-in-Memphis*

        I was just thinking the same thing. Instead of addressing her own management technique(s), she’s choosing to focus on the OP. This just sounds like a bad manager to me.

      2. Tina*

        That’s what I was thinking – that the OP and boss are struggling to communicate, and the boss is referring to generalizations rather than addressing the specific, individual behavior.

        1. Clever Name*

          This is exactly what I was thinking. The boss is having a problem with an employee, and instead of trying to address it with the employee directly, the boss is turning to books about a group to which the boss assumes the employee belongs.

      3. Anonymous*

        This could be absolutely true. 1 of my bosses is in his 60s and many struggle to work with him. He drags his feet until he can’t and then it’s a 5 alarm emergency where everyone has to drop everything and assist right now when the balls drop.

        Without more info, it could be either the boss is hard to work with or the LW and the boss could just not work well together.

      4. lindsay*

        The OP is my sister (recognized it from the details) and from the last year of conversations I’ve had with her, it’s my understanding that her manager doesn’t have a lot of experience managing people and Anon is exactly right – she seems to be trying to find excuses instead of actually dealing with issues. My sister was hired to start a new program and the boss is having a bit of “founder’s syndrome” of not being able to let go and let my sister do the job she hired her to do.

        1. Liz T*

          If this is your sister, beware of giving us extra information! She may be leaving things out so that she CAN’T be identified.

    3. sunny-dee*

      That’s possible, of course, but sometimes people look for excuses to justify a bad working relationship, and the manager may be doing that. Like, “Jane said XYZ in a status meeting — Jane has a bad attitude, and Millenials feel entitled. Also, Jane is on the Facebook, and Millenials love the social media. Ergo Jane is a classic entitled Millenial!” Or whatever. It’s sort of like in psychology class, when they tell people not to try to “diagnose” friends/family/themselves when they’re reading through the chapters on neuroses. Everyone is a little cracked, and if you look for signs of “crazy,” you will find the crazy.

      Assuming the OP is right and the manager is truly a bad manager (apart from whether the OP is a perfect worker), the manager may be trying to find ways to explain why her bad management is really because of the OP.

    4. A Bug!*

      It could be that. But it could also be that the boss is actually treating the OP differently. If the boss views the OP as ‘a millennial’ first, and ‘an employee’ second, the boss is likely attributing different motivations and causes to the OP’s behavior than she does for the OP’s coworkers.

      If a coworker’s a few minutes late, it’s probably because traffic was bad or the cat threw up; if the OP’s late, it’s because millennials don’t appreciate the importance of punctuality. If a coworker makes a typo in a document, everyone makes mistakes; if it’s the OP, it’s evidence of that millennial disinterest in detail. If a coworker’s a little bit brusque, it’s because they’re really busy or having a bad day; if it’s the OP, there’s that millennial lack of respect for peers.

      And neither of these possibilities are mutually exclusive.

      1. Chris80*

        Thanks for sharing. I tested somewhere between Baby Boomer and Gen X. Going by age alone, I am a millennial – just more proof that not all millennials act like the stereotypical millennial.

      2. Not So NewReader*

        This is cool, thanks for sharing. I am a 27 yo boomer. hahaha!

        I did get a kick out of that category 46-64. There is a huge difference between those two ages. I mean in terms of goals, wants/needs, priorities, etc.

        1. Jen RO*

          For what it’s worth, by your replies I would have said you’re in your late 30s or even older – definitely not younger than me!

      3. Omne*

        I’m not sure how valid that is. According to the answers 75% of the millenials said they did NOT create a social networking profile but only 6% of the silent generation said that. Sounds reversed.

    5. aebhel*

      If the boss is framing her interactions with the OP on the basis of the OP’s generation rather than her actual behavior and job performance–which may be stellar or awful, we have absolutely no way of knowing from the letter–than I’d say she’s acting like an incompetent manager.

      It’s the same as if my boss was asking for advice on managing an employee who is “a typical Leo.” While I may or may not be acting like a typical Leo, using that as your point of reference when talking about my behavior suggests a troublesome lack of perspective.

  4. Millenial - sorta kinda*

    I too have seen the stigma of the “Millenial.” The industry I work in is pretty well saturated with the “good ol’ boys” (if you’ll allow me this brief hypocrisy.) I was in a training not too long ago to talk about policy changes and the guy went on a 15 minute shpeal about how millenial’s have different work ethics/priorities/attitude; you name it he commented on it. And seeing as how I was the only person in the room under 35, he kept asking me what I thought. Naturally, I told him very few of those applied to me but he just kept on his tirade.

    Thankfully my boss came to me after the training and basically apologized for the guy because she felt he was unfairly singling me out and she knows for a fact that a lot of that doesn’t apply to me. So I see the stigma sometimes but am lucky enough that I have good management to act as a buffer for the good majority of it.

          1. Anonymous*

            Wow. How about we cut down on the Nazi references. Millions of people dead due to hate compared to liking the proper use of grammar? Wow.

            1. travelsonic*

              “Wow. How about we cut down on the Nazi references. Millions of people dead due to hate compared to liking the proper use of grammar?”

              The Nazis killed millions, but that’s not all they do, so to say that because no killing was involved that a reference is automatically bad is just ignorant of history. After all, they didn’t just kill right after they existed, they were formed, then started doing things in their rise to power – and were also known for their controlling nature – which is from where if I recall right the phrase “grammar Nazi” and characters like the Soup Nazi can arguably be derived from.”

      1. Harriet*

        1) people do not care to have their spelling mistakes pointed out in a context where they do not matter and 2) how come Grammar Nazi is picking on people’s spelling and not their grammar? That’s a misnomer if ever I saw one!

      2. Millenial - sorta kinda*

        You still knew what I meant and it didn’t make the entire post unreadable. I can live with it :)

        1. A Bug!*

          Although I don’t know the circumstances, I am a little disappointed that your boss didn’t stand up for you during the training.

          And regarding the correction, I agree. Unless a person’s error changes the meaning or renders the message unclear, it’s pedantic to correct it unless you’ve been invited to provide such critique.

        2. TrainerGirl*

          If the so-called “Grammar Nazi” doesn’t know the difference between correcting spelling and grammar, then maybe they shouldn’t be doing it.

      3. Leah*

        The word is transliterated from a language that does not use the Roman alphabet and also has multiple dialects, so there are multiple “correct” spellings.

        1. De (Germany)*

          Interesting. I always thought it came from the German Spiel (game / play / act). Is it of Hebrew origin?

          1. fposte*

            The Anglophone use in America comes via Yiddish, which doesn’t use the Roman alphabet, rather than German; Yiddish closely related to German with a lot of shared words, though.

    1. Elizabeth West*

      Ugh, I hate when people do that, assume they know all about you because of ONE thing–you’re a woman, you’re young, you’re tall, you have a degree, etc.

  5. Just a Reader*

    I’ve been on the manager’s side of this. I managed a difficult employee, read a book mandated by my company and guess what? He was a classic millenial.

    Examples: failed to do entry-level work quickly or well because it was boring, wanted to take on director-level work his first week, bucked the dress code, refused to follow processes, etc.

    I didn’t assign him the “millenial” label until he had earned it.

    LW, are you sure that you’re not fitting some or all of the stereotypes assigned to millenials in your behavior?

    1. Marissa*

      Sounds more like you were just managing a difficult (and inexperienced) employee. I’d be careful painting with too broad of a brush based on one single employee-confirmation bias and all. This behavior sounds a lot more like the result of a privileged background than any sort of generational marker. Not all millennials grew up privileged and entitled, in fact, statistically, most of us didn’t.

    2. JustKatie*

      I’m sure that exact type of employee existed 30 years ago; it’s not about being a Millenial, it’s about being a cruddy, inexperienced worker.

      1. JH*

        This. There is no such thing as “a Millenial.” Lazy employees, on the other hand, have been around forever.

    3. Anonymous*

      I think even if the LW fits some millenial stereotypes, a manager can tackle those issues individually rather than assign a label and stereotype.

      I mean – if your difficult employee wasn’t in the millenial generation, he would just be a difficult employee, no label.

    4. H. Vane*

      I think that rather than labeling him, your time would have been better spent managing him so that he stopped exhibiting those behaviors.

      If he didn’t respond, the labels you should have applied are first ‘problem employee’ and second ‘ex employee’.

      1. Just a Reader*

        Who said I stopped at labeling him?

        I did counsel him–using tools in well-regarded books on managing millenials as well as my own experience and guidance from my boss–and he improved for awhile, but eventually I had to let him go because he couldn’t or wouldn’t correct the problem behaviors.

        HOWEVER–my point is that when behavior fits a profile or label, people are going to assign that label to the person exhibiting the behavior.

        If you don’t want to be labeled like a millenial, don’t act like the broad definition of one.

        Ditto Gen X, Baby Boomer, etc.

        1. Midge*

          So can I call my annoying Baby Boomer colleague a Millenial when she acts like one? Because, to borrow your phrasing, she’s “earned” it.

          In my relatively brief time in the workforce I’ve seen bad behavior from people of all ages. It’s not limited to us Millenials.

        2. piny*

          No, but this is the thing: you can’t be labeled a “typical Boomer” if you’re twenty-five. A Boomer who acts like an entitled dickhead – and we know those guys – will never be a “typical Millennial” no matter how disrespectful or lazy he is. These are not bad-employee stereotypes. They cover entire generations. It’s like trying to type Kurt Cobain and Rachel Maddow, or Glenn Beck and Paul Wellstone, or my granddad and George Takei. No label like this will help you manage people.

          Apart from all that, this particular “Millennial” stereotype is classist neoliberal garbage. Your average Millennial has far less job security, less capital, more education, and fewer prospects than the people who stereotype them as lazy and entitled. Your average Millennial is not upper-middle class, but the “Millennial” certainly is. Does the “Millennial” stereotype include the school-to-prison pipeline? Our generation is shaping up to have a much more intimate relationship with law enforcement than yours ever did. Are we stereotyped as the prison generation?

          Is there a chapter in that book about experiencing long-term unemployment before you’re twenty-five, or working multiple jobs, or learning to think of a job as something that might not even provide a wage? Is there a chapter that explains to Boomers that there’s no such thing as a temp job anymore, just sporadic employment for desperate downsized secretaries, DOE?

          Does that book have some infuriating theory about how we’re so chronically unemployed we never learned how to work?

          Do you think this book talks about what Millennials are actually like?

          Because I suspect very much that this woman is reacting to her employer’s tendency to stereotype her as lazy, shallow, and childish. She is naturally annoyed about that, and naturally inclined to see a stereotype as something the stereotyped individual can’t easily dispute.

          1. Bunny*

            This comment says so much of what I wanted to say. Speaking as a Millenial who just turned 30, I really am sick to death of the stereotypes that get thrown our way.

            I wonder if the stereotype of the Millenial includes mention of the high levels of involuntary unemployment, underemployment and homelessness that I’ve encountered among my peers.

            Recent scandals over here in the UK have shown that around 20% of job vacancies on our government-run employment website (which unemployed people are mandated to use) are fraudulent CV phishing scams or “work from home” pyramid schemes. Most of the rest are under 16 hours a week, short-term temp work or zero hour contracts. Now we not only have “workfare”, an involuntary scheme where unemployed people work for free, reducing the number of paying jobs being offered, we have bogus “apprenticeships” for everything from flipping burgers to retail as a means for employers to circumvent the minimum wage and, now apparently, the government is bringing in “traineeships” which are unpaid on-the-job training to prepare you for an apprenticeship. So my 18 year old cousin, also a Millenial, is looking at a future where she will spend a year flipping burgers for no pay under the guise of “training”, followed by a year flipping burgers for 1/3 of the minimum wage as “training”, followed by mandatory workfare where she’ll flip burgers in exchange for unemployment benefits, again living on an income under the minimum wage. At what point is she supposed to be able to afford to leave home and gain independence?

            There’s no job security any more, to the point where people are constantly stressed and afraid. A good friend of mine spent the last two years working 7 days a week in two jobs and still couldn’t afford to pay his living expenses, and the dude was by no means living indulgently.

            It makes me laugh because if we were to take it as valid that you can judge people based on generational stereotypes, then the Boomers who keep spreading this stuff come out far worse than us. A generation of people, born to parents who survived a war and rebuilt the economy from the ground up. They had it all handed to them on a platter – the creation of a robust welfare state, free education, indulgent parents who wanted them to have what they lacked. They came into the job market at a time of high job security and got jobs for life, bought out the entire property market while it was all dirt cheap and saw exponential increases in the value of their properties, and got to retire at an age where they could mostly still look forward to a decade or so of decent health. And they’ve spent the past 30 years doing everything they can to destroy the environment, dismantle all welfare systems except retirement ones, and keeping a death-grip on every resource, to the point of allowing unused properties to rot rather than sell them for less than the pre-economic crisis prices they were promised, at a time when there is a serious housing shortage.

            That is, if I believed that Boomers could be stereotyped so easily.

          2. Sean*

            I’m a member of Generation X. When I hear people talk about how entitled Millenials are, how lazy, how they are unwilling or unable to follow process, and so forth, I laugh. People said the same things about us. There are some differences – I think Millenials are usually characterized as politically naive, while we were said to be cynical and uncaring – but a lot of the stereotypes are the same. They all boil down to some version of “that kid will never amount to anything”, and should be ignored, IMO.

    5. Apostrophina*

      I see your point, but I can remember when there were multiple trend pieces attributing that stuff to Generation X (and certainly most of the business majors I knew in college seemed to be under the delusion that they’d be “raptured” into lucrative management positions upon graduation, so I don’t doubt some of it was true). I just don’t think this stuff applies very well at an individual level.

      1. Cat*

        And before that to Baby Boomers who, let’s not forget, were defined as a “rebelling against authority” generation before they became, you know, the establishment. Welcome to life.

      2. Ask a Manager* Post author

        Yes, this stuff is about being a delusional and inexperienced young worker, and there have been plenty of those in every generation when they’re in their 20s. It’s age, not generation.

        1. Anonymous*

          I think instead of age we should say experience. There are people in their 20s who have been working since they were 15, and there are middle aged people who have only had one job or who didn’t work until they had to for whatever reason (stay at home parent, kept spouse, etc.).

          Every employee should be judged on their merits as individuals, the work they do, and how well they perform.

          1. Puddin*

            I am wondering what the precipitating event for the book on Millennials was? Did the manager purchase the book upon hiring in an attempt to understand the generational differences better? And if so, was she nervous about hiring someone much younger than the others in the office or was she instructed to get this book by someone else, was it based on an earnest desire to be aware and helpful to her new employee? Or was this book purchased after the OP exhibited some behaviors that caused the manager concern? I think the intent here is a big hole that we cannot fill in with the given info, and indeed the OP may very well not know.

            Bottom line is the OP has some behavior that her boss feels is problematic. The manager could have been reading about how to manage aliens and label the OP a martian. The label does not matter, even though it may feel unfair. I second the posters who suggested you read the same book – if for no other reason than to learn the vernacular that the manager has. Then address the concerns as they come up through recognizing the language used to correct or label the problematic behavior. once the issue is identified, then work towards fixing it, perhaps acknowledge it as well and outline the plans to overcome the challenge.

      1. Just a Reader*

        Actually, it does. This specific person was a victim of the helicopter, everyone gets a trophy school of parenting that became popular at that time. And his attitude and expectations at work reflected that.

        1. Marissa*

          Yeah…that really isn’t a thing. Trust me, if everyone gets a trophy, no kid thinks that trophy is valuable. Kids know what winning is.

            1. Marissa*

              Haha, “experts” people who get paid to write think pieces on the internet aren’t necessarily experts. Are there some parents who raise their children like this? Yes, and there always have been. They tend to be wealthy and well-educated and well-connected and want to make sure that their child has every opportunity. Most kids do not share this same experience and it’s most definitely not a generation-wide thing.

                1. Ethyl*

                  Well I wouldn’t want to hurt your feelings, so you can have a trophy too! Hugs for everyone!

            2. aebhel*

              Not all of them. Sorry.

              “Some experts say a thing I agree with, and others don’t. Ergo, experts agree with me,” is just bad logic.

              –a Millenial.

          1. Xay*

            Seriously. If you want to know what the score is at a kids game where they don’t officially keep score – ask the kids.

            1. BarefootLibrarian*

              You know, people always reference the whole “everyone gets a trophy” thing as an example of millennial parenting mentality, but I AM the parent of millennials and I never actually saw this happen in all of the sports and competitive activities that my children were involved in over the years. Scores were kept and there were definitely winners. I’d love to see some statistics on how often this actually occurred vs. how popular a story it is to tell.

              Of my two children (16months apart) one is a super motivated, hard worker and one would be content to life in my basement if I let her, so I’d tend to think that it’s an individual thing not a broad-spectrum personality type. Just my two cents. ;)

              1. Xay*

                In the early years when my son played recreational soccer (around age 5-8), the league did not keep score or maintain win/loss records. Every single child knew the score and how many wins the team had, whether their parents kept track or not.

              2. Laufey*

                I saw this happen in two distinct places. In the local summer swim league, everyone who swam and didn’t place got a light blue participation ribbon. We all knew they were crap, though.

                In our middle school/eighth grade graduation promotion ceremony (at a very small parochial school), everyone got an award for being the “best” at something – English, Math, Foreign Language, etc. There were just enough categories for each kid to be the “best” at exactly one thing, even though we knew, for example, that the kid that was the best at math was also the best at science. We (the kids) were kind of surprised by this, and I never got a chance to talk to my friends about it (moved out of state the next day), but I remember being extraordinarily pissed off that we could name an MVP for our sports teams, but we couldn’t say who was the best academically, because that might hurt someone’s feelings.

                That being said, I’ve never been on a team where they didn’t keep score and this all did happen in a very wishy-washy part of the Northeast, and all the kids definitely could tell the difference between the participation ribbons and the real ribbons. Haven’t had it happen to me anywhere else or since.

                1. Sigrid*

                  Between my sister’s class (born 1980) and mine (born 1984), our elementary school switched from having their annual academic awards be “who is the best at this” to “who has improved the most at this”. That pissed me off no end as a child, because I was always at the top or very near the top of my class for academics. There wasn’t anything *to* improve, so I never got a damn award. It was made worse by the fact that my older sister, also at the top of her class, had gotten awards regularly every single year.

                  I never won anything at bingo, either. #firstworldproblems

              3. Del*

                Agreed. People keep referencing “everyone gets a trophy” as if millennials have been raised with it — well, let me tell you, I never saw that in action until I started working! Now, in the office, it’s “here, you get a certificate, you weren’t absent during the training we told you we didn’t allow absences for,” and “here, you get a piece of paper that says you’re not an absolutely crummy employee.” And it’s not coming from the millennials in the office, either — most of the managers running this stuff are on the old side of Gen X or the young side of the baby boom.

                1. Andrea*

                  Oh, yes, this. I’m Gen X, but at ex job, we were all given these ribbons in a special ceremony to commemorate … something. Probably working too hard for too little pay or something like that. The ribbons were from a dollar store and said things like “You’re #1!” I laughed because I thought it was some kind of joke. Nope, they were serious, and I was the only one laughing! They used to reward us with certificates all the time at that place, and my manager acted all hurt when I didn’t display them in my cube. It was ridiculous.

              4. Cat*

                I saw it once. When I was in, I think kindergarten and first grade, I was on a rec soccer team. I was pretty terrible and not very committed, and quit before second grade (I think). Anyway, the next year, one of the other girls on the team brought in a trophy that had been given to everyone on that team (which had been a static group for all those years, I think). I thought that looked awesome, but was like, well, I guess when you quit, you don’t get trophies, which I don’t think was an invalid lesson to learn. Nor do I think it was invalid that the kids who kept playing soccer got a hunk of plastic to take home. There’s more than one type of behavior worth commending in life; getting the highest score is not the only thing worth celebrating.

              5. Tinker*

                One of the things that strikes me as funny about the whole trophy deal — I mean, aside from kind of wondering what you do instead with the eight-year-old kiddie soccer team, explain to them in detail how inadequate they are both absolutely as soccer players and also relative to their peers? — is that as an adult I’ve found a lot more value in applying consistent work to things that I’m not necessarily brilliant at all the time than in focusing in coming in first! first! definitely better than you! first! all the time.

                That and I figured out that trophies are made of plastic and you can buy them at the store. So I’m not sure why folks continue to talk about them as if they must be acquired by scaling Mount Doom.

              6. Sydney*

                I played sports in Texas from 1993-2007. There were always (ALWAYS!!!) winners and losers above 5 year olds, even in the sports you don’t care about unless your kid is playing.

                Under 5 categories usually didn’t keep an official score, but most kids and parents knew who won and lost.

              7. Anx*

                I think this whole trophy thing might artificially inflate some kids’ self worth, have a neutral effect on some, and others are actually deflated by it.

                When you can see through every marker of being ‘adequate,’ it’s hard to trust any sort of praise. I was a sensitive kid and tried to take pride in my participation ribbons, because it meant I kept putting myself out there at things I wasn’t very good at to ‘build character.’ It was also a small token to show for all the weekends doing things I liked that didn’t ‘count.’ But it was also embarrassing. I felt embarrassed that someone tried to tell me at least I showed up when I was focusing on how nonathletic I was.

                My mom never got a trophy for showing up. She never did a team sport either. And she was never sideeyed for it. Try being a kid in the 90s through now without being a ‘joiner’ and watch how fast the labels of ‘weird,’ ‘lazy,’ and ‘unmotivated’ come out.

                (I grew up in an upper middle class area)

            2. Simonthegrey*

              When I was a kid, I entered a dance competition with my dance school. In the particular age range and style, there were two teams competing. My team received “second place ribbons.” As you can imagine, we were not deluded into thinking that it meant anything, because we knew full well that it meant we lost.

          2. Anonsie*

            Exactly. I was on the first wave of the Participation Trophy business, and you know what? None of us are proud of those stupid things. They’re embarrassing. If someone gave you and every single other coworker “Best Employee Ever” awards, do you think you’d all really believe that about yourselves? Come on.

          3. Delurking*

            Where is this myth of ‘everyone gets a trophy’ and ‘soccer games that don’t keep score’ coming from? When I was a kid (mid 90s) it was all ‘you must get straight As and learn two instruments and do sports and do the school play and the science fair and if you aren’t at the very top, you are worthless.’ Which is its own kind of unhealthy, but we were being programmed to be neurotic overachievers, not lazy slackers.

            1. Laura*

              My experience growing up in the mid 90s was the same as yours Delurking. Equally unhealthy but never heard of the ‘everyone gets a trophy’ thing in real life. When I was a kid, anything other than 1st place best of everything was failure. That has caused a lot of problems for me, but not the same problems.

                1. dejavu2*

                  Precisely. I think a lot of the flack Millenials catch for seeming “entitled” stems from the fact they’ve been killing themselves since elementary school to get exceptional grades, participate as an effective leader in multiple activities, learn multiple instruments, attend educational summer programs, etc. I’m slightly too old to be a Millenial, but I can tell you that I when I graduated college in the very early 00s, the working world felt like hitting a brick wall. Not because I’d been receiving undeserved praise my entire life, but because I had spent 12 years killing myself to earn the privilege of spending four years in a one of the most competitive and intellectual educational environments in the world… to earn less money than I could live off of getting yelled at because I had sharpened the conference room pencils incorrectly. On the one hand, I understood everyone has to start somewhere, but on the other hand I was doing work that could have easily been handled by a precocious 12 year old.

                  I think a lot of it is an age thing more than a generational thing, but to a certain extent boomers didn’t have to deal with this stuff. Their high school and college experiences were dramatically different than ours, they didn’t graduate with crushing debt only to find it doesn’t become “worth it” for another two decades, etc.

                2. fposte*

                  Does anybody else read The Billfold? There’s so much interesting stuff there, a lot of it job-related as well as money-related. And I see a lot of young people there who are dealing with the reality of how little their pay really buys where they live (mostly New York, which obviously makes it worse). But they understandably find it very difficult to accept that stuff many of us take for granted as a part of life is something they can’t afford. And I don’t mean they feel entitled to lattes, I mean they can’t have home internet and make their budget and they haven’t faced up to that.

              1. Anon*

                Likewise, we were constantly told that we WEREN’T good enough, that we COULDN’T have it all, and that we were facing stiff competition (from each other and from people already in the work force). Everyone who said these things seemed to be under the impression that they were debunking a grand illusion we had been under, and cited “you will have been told all your lives that opportunities will be handed to you, that you’re all winners, and I’m here to blow your minds by telling you that’s not actually true”, but neither I nor any of my peers recalled ever having been told we were even good enough, let alone all winners. We had to be constantly striving to be the best, or we were nothing. Even if you won something once you then had to prove you deserved it to maintain your status. To do anything else would be letting yourself (and your family, school, team, etc) down and failing to live up to any “potential”.
                I was born in 1990. It seems likely that the apparently “entitled” generation is the one before, that our mentors were reacting to?

                1. Renegade Rose*

                  I was also born in 1990 and had the same experiences. The only person who told me I was perfect just the way I was was my grandmother. Obviously, I didn’t take that as gospel.

                2. Marissa*

                  I was born in the early 80s and want to say THIS THIS THIS THIS to everything you just wrote.

                  I’ve just decided that whenever I hear people give the “you’re not a special snowflake” speech, it’s just them spouting off bitterly because they don’t feel recognized enough for their own special snowflakeness.

                  I WISH I was raised with all this self-esteem talk everyone seems to think we all grew up with.

                3. Bunny*

                  See also:

                  “You have to get straight As in all your exams because to do less than that will doom you to a life of failure, therefore it is reasonable to expect that you will spend your youth with longer work hours than you parents, between school hours, homework, study for the constant rota of exams and tests, extra-curricular activities and music lessons etc etc.”

                  Combined with

                  “You kids have it so easy now, they’ve simplified all your schoolwork and exams that really you’d have to be an idiot to get less than an A, I don’t know why you all think you’re special for having done X and Y, really these qualifications are worthless these days.”

                4. Sean*

                  I was born in 1967, and we were never told we were all winners, either. It was a dog-eat-dog world, we were told, and we had to be smart, tough, and strong to succeed, and because we were slackers (we were told), that was pretty unlikely to happen. I think that people who say things like this to kids are reacting to their own fears and not much else.

            2. Joey*

              Its real. My little one is in a huge soccer league where everyone gets equal play time, everyone gets a trophy and medal and scores are not kept.

              1. VintageLydia USA*

                But that usually stops around middle school, right? It’s one thing to give every kid a chance to play and learn the game, but once you’re at an age to play competitively, participation trophies go away.

                1. Xay*

                  Some recreational and church sports orgs continue participation trophies and equal playing time through middle school.

                2. Elizabeth West*

                  A few years ago, I was looking for a writing group near here. I found one that stated on its website that they did not do critiques, only positive support. Now there are ways to critique someone’s work without excoriating them, but writers learn NOTHING from that kind of praise-only treacle. That’s why agents don’t care how much your mother liked your manuscript.

                  I emailed them and asked politely what exactly they meant by that, and I never received a reply. Guess the question was too negative for them. :P

                  And this was for adults.

                3. Liz T*

                  Actually, it’s not uncommon for some writers’ groups to be aimed at generating pages rather than improving the pages one already has. Different goals for different stages of the work’s development–nothing wrong with that.

                4. Cat*

                  Yes, heaven forbid every 8-year-old gets a chance to play at every soccer game. We might be teaching them that there’s something valuable about participating in sports even if they don’t win! I mean, they might even learn to enjoy exercise for its own sake and because it’s fun! We can’t have that!

              2. Sydney*

                Your little one isn’t a Millennial, so his everyone-gets-a-trophy anecdata doesn’t even apply.

            3. Anonsie*

              We had this but we still all got ribbons for science fair and all that. To me it always felt like they were just highlighting how bad we all were at everything– “None of you are good enough to ‘win’ so here, you all did something, whatever.”

            4. Del*

              “You have to have a ton of extracurriculars or you won’t get into a good college and then you’ll be flipping burgers all your life and we can’t have our child turn into a burger-flipper now can we?


              1. Laura*

                And then four years later “You think you’re two good to flip burgers now, just because you graduated with honours from a good colleges, did internships and had part time jobs, won’t make enough money to live on anyways, and we told you your whole life to never flip burgers? You’re so entitled!”

              2. TrainerGirl*


                Del, that was my mother’s threat for every B, every “could do better” comment….”If you don’t get all A’s, you’ll be working at McDonalds!” My mother was all extremes back then.

                I know she hated not being able to say that when I got my first temp job in an office during college. That empty threat never motivated me, but I guess that’s what some parents do.

                1. Andrea*

                  I once got a B- on an algebra test and my dad lost it, screaming that I was going to be a waitress for the rest of my life. IT WAS ONE TEST. SHEESH.

            5. aebhel*

              You must have 20,000 after-school activities and a perfect SAT and straight-A’s or you’ll never get into college and THAT WOULD BE THE END OF THE WORLD…

              Yeah, that was my experience of being a kid in the 90’s. And it wasn’t really coming from my parents, who were laid-back not-quite-ex-hippie Boomers.

              1. ella*

                Funny how threatening you with the end of the world doesn’t actually prepare you to survive in the world, right?

                1. aebhel*


                  I have a friend who was valedictorian of his high school class, went on to get a BS in math from Oberlin…and then came back home and spent the next two years working part-time at Agway because that was the only job he could find. His parents couldn’t understand why he was so depressed and demoralized about the whole business, but when you grow up hearing that the only way you can get ahead in life is with a college degree, a college degree (especially in a STEM field from a good school) will make it easy to find a job…well, it’s not that surprising that reality is a bit of a blow.

                  (This story does have a happy ending; he ended up joining the Navy and is now an O-3, but it was a rough couple of years.)

            6. Anx*

              Yep! You got participation ribbons because you weren’t a winner, but at least you had something to show for your registration fees and overscheduled life. I mean, you could have spent those 2 hours studying and gotten an A easily, but YOU, you’re the kind of kid that I can get an A- while standing in right field for 3 hours on a Tuesday night before an exam. Here’s a piece of polyester on a string in exchange for the fact that any reading you did you did on the bus or in the car.

        2. Ask a Manager* Post author

          It could be in his case, but there have been plenty of people exhibiting those characteristics in their early 20s in other generations. It doesn’t really do any good (and does plenty of harm) to decide to make it about his generation.

          1. Just a Reader*

            Let me ask you this–as long as I’m getting hammered for daring to use the term–is it equally harmful to recognize the positive in a generational category?

            For example, the drive, creativity, autonomy and need to feel that work is important, all traits attributed to millenials, were traits that my employee had and that were recognized. The incentives we gave him were guided by best practices on millenial management but really tailored to him as an individual. And they worked for quite awhile. He made it 4 years in the job before being let go.

            If I haven’t been clear–I managed this person as himself, not as a millenial, but took advantage of tools for managing this specific demographic of employees because it turned out he fit the profile. I didn’t try to pigeonhole him because of his age or apply generalities to him.

            1. Ethyl*

              “…took advantage of tools for managing this specific demographic of employees…”

              This sounds like a load of pseudoscientific BS if you’ll excuse me. Do you also read management books on “how to manage women” or “how to manage Black people”? The screening criteria for each group are about as useful.

              1. Just a Reader*

                It was actually the course required by my employer.
                But indirectly calling me a sexist and a racist is super constructive. Thanks for your input!

                1. Ethyl*

                  Well…..that’s not what I said, now was it? It was actually a serious question you should ask yourself — what is it about the criteria of what year you were born that makes any group of people similar enough to generalize about them than any other random characteristic? Why is it less offensive when it’s birth year vs. gender, or race, or hair color?

                2. Just a Reader*

                  I hate that the reply button quits working a few in.

                  Birth year isn’t random. People born at the same time in the same country are going to experience the same world events, similar educational standards if not environments (at least in public schools), the same information fed through media lenses and one of only a few “parenting cultures” popular at the time. To a degree, that will shape the world’s expectations of them and vice versa in a way that race, gender, etc. do not.

                3. Ethyl*


                  You think a person’s race, gender, and other inherent characteristics DON’T shape “the world’s expectations of them and vice versa”? I MUST be mis-reading you.

                4. Joey*

                  I’m sure you’ll agree that it is indeed beneficial to be sensitive to women and minority issues, no?

                  Isn’t it just smart to know what issues women face in the workplace to understand how to better manage them. For example, isn’t it smart to know that women dont like being referred to as girl or female? Isn’t it smart to know that minorities in general are sensitive to assumptions generally made about them? And isn’t it smart to incorporate those sensitivities into your practices?

                  I’m not getting how being sensitive to group issues is a bad thing. Obviously you can implement the wrong behaviors, but you seem to be questioning the need for those sensitivities at all, no?

                5. Ethyl*

                  Joey, as I said below, programs that work to eradicate institutional biases such as the entrenched history of racism or sexism in the corporate world are not the same thing as making sweeping generalizations about swaths of humans based on what year they were born in.

                  I mean, as someone said below, they are considered “gen X” while their sibling, two years younger, is “millenial.” But they had the same parents, went to the same school, were exposed to the same culture. That’s a completely pointless distinction, unlike a distinction that takes into account centuries of systematic discrimination.

                6. Ask a Manager* Post author

                  Hey wait, I didn’t read Ethyl’s comment that way at all! She’s saying that thinking about how to manage people based on the group they’re in doesn’t make sense, period. It would be really annoying if your boss was talking about managing you “as a woman” or “as a black person.” Same thing here.

              2. Just a Reader*

                Boggle away, Ethyl–you are misreading me. Purposely, I think. And really, you’re being rude and argumentative instead of constructive.

                We are talking specifically about generational issues. I answered in that vein.

                And–I’m not sure how long you’ve been in the workforce–but there ARE programs designed specifically for women and minorities. My company has won awards for ours. It doesn’t mean your manager says, “Oh, you’re a woman, here’s your pink desk and your Hello Kitty phone.” It does mean that your manager might refer you to a “women in the workforce” program that discusses male vs. female management styles, the very real threat of the mommy track and the work/life balance issues that many men don’t struggle with as parents.

                1. Ethyl*

                  But you’re not talking about programs that help re-align institutional discrimination, you’re looking for excuses to think less of people based on what year they were born in. Those are two different things.

                2. Ethyl*

                  Besides which, the existence of programs to help end institutional discrimination don’t provide some sort of blueprint to manage “women” or “minorities” effectively. Because that would, indeed, be racist or sexist — treating groups of people as a monolith instead of individuals is what is problematic, not the existence of oppression.

                3. Just a Reader*

                  No, I’m not–but you seem determined to read it that way. So, enjoy. I don’t have any more time for you today.

                4. Cat*

                  Ugh, no, I would be incredibly annoyed if I was sent to a program that discusses male vs. female management styles. How patronizing. Women and men are all over the spectrum – what matters is how you can be productive based on your own style.

                5. Ethyl*

                  @ Cat and AAM — woahhh I totally missed that the first time around! Yeahhh no, that is exactly the kind of broad generalization I am arguing AGAINST, here.

            2. K*

              There are tons of people who have “drive, creativity, autonomy and need to feel that work is important”. I can name a few dozen people in my life who have all of those traits, and their ages range from 16 to 72.

        3. KJR*

          As the parent of two millenials, I would say that’s just bad parenting! I’m raising them the same way I was raised – to work hard, respect others, work your way up, do your share, be helpful, etc. Now, granted, I’m really having to drive these points home with them, and they don’t seem entirely thrilled with the prospect of not being immediately rich right out of college, and *gasp* having to go to work for 8+ HOURS a day, but I think that’s more a function of their being young…not necessarily that they’re millenials. I remember having to learn the same hard lessons as a young Gen-Xer.

        4. Just a Reader*

          My other comment got eaten so I’m replying here.

          These are the sources I’m referring to. Management experts.

                1. Just a Reader*

                  If you actually read the links–the books discuss millenials as a product of their upbringing and how to manage accordingly.

                2. Ethyl*

                  What millenials? Poor, black millenials? White bisexual millenials with amputations? Ginger millenials whose parents were killed in a car crash when they were 7 and they spent their adolescence in foster care? You just can’t make any sort of sensical generalizations about people based on what year they were born in.

          1. Just a Reader*

            Ethyl, give it a flipping rest. Or read the books. But please quit attacking my comments at every single turn with the same spiel.

            Write in to the authors of the books if you have an issue with their positioning. But I recommend you read them first.

            1. Ethyl*

              You’re in the minority here, among a wide variety of humans from a wide variety of education levels, industries, and years of experience. It could be worth considering why so many people are disagreeing with you so vociferously (hint: it’s not just me!).

              1. Just a Reader*

                Hint: You’re still not reading me correctly. And that’s fine.

                Now I am respectfully asking you to LEAVE ME ALONE. Please.

              2. Sydney*

                Ethyl – I’m late to the party, but wanted to chime in that I completely agree with the things you’ve said on this topic.

                +1 internet*N(comments) for you

            2. Ask a Manager* Post author

              For what it’s worth, I’m not reading any of Ethyl’s comments as attacking, just disagreeing. I think you’re reading a tone or intent into them that might not actually be there!

              1. Just a Reader*

                I don’t think following me around to disagree with me, flogging the same point, is productive. And I’d like it to stop.

                1. Ask a Manager* Post author

                  You’ve clearly asked her to stop responding to you now, so I’m sure that she will … but I’ve read her responses so far as just contributing to a discussion that we’re all having here. She disagrees with some of what you’re saying, so her responses have indicated that, but I don’t get the sense that she’s doing it to harass you or that it’s personal. We’re all just talking about the issue, and responses prompt responses prompt more responses!

                2. Just a Reader*

                  That’s certainly fair. This discussion feels different than any other I’ve had on AAM. More aggressive, less respectful.

                  In any case, hopefully it’s done.

            3. aebhel*

              Disagreeing isn’t really the same thing as attacking, though. Continuing to engage in a conversation and then getting angry when the other person does the same thing isn’t really fair.

            4. Sean*

              Not to add fuel to any particular fire, here, but consider: you read those books, and applied the ideas in them to managing the employee you spoke of earlier in the thread. Your efforts were apparently unsuccessful. I suggest that this may indicate that the ideas in those books may not be as helpful or applicable as they seemed.

              Please note that I’m not faulting your management style. I’m saying that given the (admittedly anecdotal) data you have here, maybe those ideas aren’t as good as you might have initially thought.

        5. kristoff*

          Grew up in the 90’s and the only place I’ve ever seen the everyone gets a trophy/ribbon/certificate is when doing volunteering with the Special Olympics. And they are not worthless to those kids.

        6. Katie C.*

          I’m an older Millennial – born in 1987 – but that “everyone gets a trophy!” thing did not happen for us. Winners received trophies or ribbons, and everyone else was told better luck next year. I don’t think this is a universal experience for Millennials.

    6. Anonymous*

      I recently ran across someone who exhibited these kinds of traits. She wanted to meet the Top Boss the first week to give her suggestions. She didn’t follow the dress code. She questioned business processes that weren’t even relevant to her job.

      But honestly? It is something a lot of fresh out of college kids trying to make it at their first job do. After talking with my coworkers (who are all old enough to be my parent) they all either knew people close to them who did it or they owned up to doing it themselves.

      This happens to a lot of people when they join the real world.

      Mellenials aren’t that special. You were likely like that when you were young too. Manage the actual problem.
      (I didn’t even notice that those were problems of “mellenials” until I read this comment and recognized her.)

      1. Just a Reader*

        I think this is actually a case of the workplace changing.

        I didn’t do any of that as a new employee. BUT once I had a water cooler chat with my VP (several levels up) and mentioned that I liked the work and was looking forward to more responsibility. I was firmly and formally reprimanded by my boss the next day for going over her head.

        Today, I think a lot of workplaces are focused on coaching and retaining millenials, and what I experienced wouldn’t happen–or at least it would have been a coaching conversation and not a humiliating wrist slap.

        The term millenial isn’t always used for evil! I think, like anything else, it’s an attempt to get a bead on a segment of the workforce and find the appropriate tools for maximum productivity and retention.

        1. Anonymous*

          There is a big difference between bumping into your vp at the water cooler and demanding a meeting to tell them about your Big Ideas. (Especially when your org is so large that chances are good you’ll never even see the top dog people.)

          I’m all for coaching, but that should be with all employees where they are at. Not only people within a certain age range. (I’d be really unhappy if a coworker had feedback because they were a year younger than me. I want feedback too!)

          1. Just a Reader*

            Of course. I’m saying that to a degree, this is expected of entry-level people and handled accordingly. I don’t think it would be as tolerated of someone more seasoned, if the request/demand were still wildly appropriate.

            So my point is twofold. The workplace handles this differently today than it did in my 1999 experience, and it’s still a blunder tolerated in younger folks but not more experienced workers.

            My opinion only of course, based on my own experience.

        2. Lexie*

          So I have been just browsing through the comments and trying to really think about the problem with generational generalization (nice alliteration, right!). I think this comment along with another above really capture it. When you are looking for strategies to retain and motivate a person, you should really focus on that person. Even the common set of environmental factors shared by a generation are not enough to allow you to motivate each person the exact same way. I may want to feel my work is important, my same-age cube mate would like more flexibility, and someone else in my age group may really want more money. If you gave me a participation trophy because you read that I would be motivated by that, you would be sorely disappointed. Using generalizations to develop a management strategy takes away the responsibility of open communication that will lead to the correct motivation and retention you are searching for.

          1. Arbynka*

            “Even the common set of environmental factors shared by a generation are not enough to allow you to motivate each person the exact same way”

            Yes. Even though it is true that people born in the same year in the same geographical area will share some common experiences, they will also have their distinct individual experiences. And those individual experiences are the ones that “shape” person the most.

          2. Just a Reader*

            In a perfect world, sure.

            In the real world, many companies/managers don’t have the bandwidth to target that way, so they have to target by level or function or whatever.

            My old company specifically tried to retain the millenial generation as the cornerstone of its workforce, so a lot of tactics were targeted towards the generality. The bandwidth just wasn’t available to drill down by each individual person.

            1. Ask a Manager* Post author

              See, this to me seems strange. I’d be annoyed as hell if I were in that age group and had a bunch of generation-based strategies thrown at me that didn’t fit me. I actually do think that good managers are perfectly capable of drilling down by individual person (and it’s often something that has to be done at the manager/employee level rather than company-wide).

              1. Just a Reader*

                You know, it works though. This company has the highest retention rate in the industry and when surveyed, scores very high on the happiness scale.

                I’m talking more about benefits than actually management–career development, etc. is obviously tailored and individual. But benefits/perks were all results of consultant recommendations for that demographic.

                1. aebhel*

                  I think that is a pretty significant difference, though. A general benefits package that’s tailored to a particular demographic you’d like to attract, sure. But managing on a one-to-one basis? I just can’t see how ‘you happen to meet some stereotypes of people who were born in this arbitrary 20-year stretch’ is a useful management strategy.

                  Generations are useful for trivia and broad demographic data, but they’re too big and diverse to be much use for dealing with people on an individual basis. I’m 28. I have a mortgage, a Master’s degree, a 10-year job history, a spouse. I don’t think I have a whole lot in common, in terms of what I want out of and can contribute to a job, with someone who was born in 1995–and that’s not even getting into class, race, gender, educational background, etc.

                2. Just a Reader*

                  Apparently I haven’t been crystal clear on this thread–I’m not advocating managing from some millenial handbook or painting everyone with the same brush.

                  I, personally, have blended reading and tools on the milennial workforce with personally tailored management with success, outside of the problem employee I posted about. The general info served as guidepost for a more personalized approach for each of my employees.

                  Hopefully that clarifies things.

                3. Lexie*

                  So I feel hesitant responding because I think it has been said, but I think what you are missing here is the inherent problem with your guidepost. (Ran out of replies so this is to the comment at 6:42pm) Think about a highly dramatized replacement for your generational advice book. Like if you had a book that claimed you should tailor your management style to avoid confrontation with women because they are very sensitive and emotional. You read this and it molds your approach when talking to Jane. So you avoid being direct with her about problems. But when Bob needs feedback you are direct and clear. Now replace genders with age. You are tailoring/molding your approach with information that will be inaccurate by nature. In doing so you are creating inequalities in the management received by your team whether or not it truly leaves anyone disadvantaged.

                4. aebhel*

                  I don’t think you’ve been unclear; I understand what you’re saying, I just don’t see taking a generational perspective on management issues as a good strategy, even if it’s not the only one you adopt. It’s like using gender or race or (to use a less inflammatory example), regional background. You may get some useful general insights, but you’re liable to be wrong as often as you’re right.

                  If it works for you, then it works for you, but it’s not a strategy I’m going to embrace.

              2. Steve G*

                I would be mad too. I define myself more by the fact that I’m Catholic, contribute to charity, like kids, like trips to the country…and stuff like that. Besides, most of these generation definitions don’t make sense, as many people have pointed out.

          1. Leah*

            I had a boss get angry with me because of work I’d done and a higher-up took notice. What had happened was that I wrote an appeal and filed it like usual. The judge who review the appeal was impressed and mentioned that to his friend who was about two steps above my boss. I got a simple note encouraging me to keep up the good work and she was CCed. Instead of seeing the CC as a subtle pat on the back for her, my boss was furious for reasons that elude me. He job required at least 10 years more experience than I had so I was no threat and she maybe wrote one appeal per year if the topic interested her.

          2. Just a Reader*

            Actually the punishment came from the VP, who felt that I was completely inappropriate.

            1. Chris80*

              Wow, that’s harsh. If a higher-up can’t interact well with subordinates, he/she should just get their own personal water cooler!

          3. Marcy*

            There are plenty that act like that. When my ex-boss was out of town, HER boss asked me to do something for him. I did it and got yelled at when she got back and then she put a comment in my evaluation that I didn’t understand hierarchy. She said I was supposed to refuse to do the work and tell him to wait for my boss to get back in town and ask her to do it.

    7. Sunflower*

      Maybe it’s because I’m a millennial but if an older worker was refusing to learn a new technology, I wouldn’t label them as anything. I would say ‘hey this guy needs to learn this and it’s frustrating that he refuses to’

      I find the ‘millennial’ label as a thing used to describe my age group and characteristics of my age group but I wouldn’t put that on one particular person. It’s possible that OP is doing some things that fit into this stereotype but I would much sooner label them ‘lazy’

    8. A Bug!*

      What would you have called a 40-year-old who exhibited the same behaviors?

      When you say ‘millennial’ to describe a person who is sloppy, inattentive, irresponsible, entitled, and unprofessional, you are actively doing a disservice to all those millennials who are none of those things. You can say all you want that you’re not describing those people when you call your bad employee a millennial, but the fact is that you are, because you are using a word that defines their generation, not their behavior.

      1. Arbynka*

        “You can say all you want that you’re not describing those people when you call your bad employee a millennial, but the fact is that you are, because you are using a word that defines their generation, not their behavior.”

        This. Well said.

    9. Not So NewReader*

      Every generation has done this.

      I can remember my father complaining. He was in charge of a crew repairing airplanes in WWII. He said some of the men had no work ethic, felt no need to double check their work or investigate something that did not look quite right.

      I don’t get it. Why kick a particular generation over these issues when it is all fairly common work place stuff?

      And here is the real truth: If my next generation has failed in some manner then that is the fault of MY generation.

      No one exists in a vacuum. We are all interconnected. Failure on one person’s part does not mean an automatic/default win on my part.
      That’s not how that works.

    10. Mike C.*

      You don’t assign him the “millennial” label, you assign him the “bad employee” label.

      Christ, why is this so difficult?

  6. Anon*

    The boss definitely sounds like she’s unfairly generalizing about the OP. However, I’m wondering if the OP is giving her reasons to do so. After all, if the boss was reading up on stereotypes about Millenials and none of them were true about OP, a reasonable person would see that they were not accurate. I think the OP may need to take a closer look at her own behavior to see if anything she’s doing is contributing to that assumption.

    It is possible her boss is totally unreasonable. But I’m guessing the truth is somewhere in the middle.

    1. JustKatie*

      But on the other hand, many times people like to diagnose themselves or others with a checklist, and magnify behaviors that aren’t part of a larger pattern (Millenials are self-absorbed: I remember that time that OP looked at themself in the mirror! Check!). It’s like when you’re on WebMD and every. single. time. your symptoms indicate something terminal.

      1. Tinker*

        Yeah, this is my thing — it seems like if you’re looking for it, pretty much anyone who is breathing and in roughly the right age range can be shoehorned into the stereotype somewhere. Even the fairly saintly ones can be “Oh, it’s fortunate that you’re not like all those other young people who (reiterate stereotype here)”.

        1. Ethyl*

          Yes! And then you can’t see past the image you have of the person AND it becomes self-fulfilling. Just like when you have a coworker or friend who is the “clumsy” one, or the “emotional” one, or whatever. Not being able to see an individual for who they really are is damaging whether the label is “millenial” or “oversensitive.”

      2. Chrissi*

        Yes! It’s confirmation bias. She sees what she expects to see because she discounts any behavior that doesn’t fit the model, and actively looks for behavior that does fit the model. I feel confident saying that she does this because EVERYONE does this. Confirmation Bias is incredibly common. There are some other psychological biases at play here too, I imagine, but that’s the one that screams out to me.

    2. Except in California*

      I agree, it’s probably somewhere in the middle. It sounds to me like a classic communication problem — I know when I was in my 20s/30s, I frequently thought I understood what my boss wanted but I was mistaken, and in one case, read the situation totally wrong and got fired. (Everyone should get fired at least once though, you learn so much from it!)

      1. Marissa*

        I want to sit the whole world down and make them take a class on this and every other bias humans are prone to. It would at least make me want to pull my hair out less often.

        1. Sarahnova*

          I’ll run the classes! I actually have done this, but specifically for ones that crop up in hiring. (You guessed it, confirmation bias is in there.)

      2. Anonymous*

        You may have met one person who didn’t already know that, but do not let confirmation bias blind you to the fact that most people know all about correlation, causation, and bias. ;)

        1. Anonymous*

          Aww! I want to join you in the land of unicorns and an understanding that confirmation is not causation! It makes me giddy to think about!

          1. NutellaNutterson*

            It’s the XKCD Correlation comic! “I used to think correlation implied causation. Then I took a statistics class. Now I don’t.” “Sounds like the class helped.” “Well, maybe.”

            1. KJR*

              I once attended a certification prep class where the instructor, when teaching the statistics portion of the class, kept calling it “casual correlation” vs. “causal” (which in my mind, are complete opposites.) It was driving me nuts.

    3. Windchime*

      Yeah, I have trouble with this whole concept of labeling people based on their generation.

      I have a co-worker from another country (we’ll say Monaco, even though that’s not really where he is from). He is scatterbrained, disorganized, lazy, and rarely reads his email. He never volunteers to share information; you have to drag it out of him in bits and pieces. Does it therefore follow that I should buy a book on “How to Manage Your Employees From Monaco”? Is it reasonable to assume that all employees from this same country are equally incompetent? It doesn’t seem like it; after all, Joe on the other team is also from Monaco and he is a stellar employee.

      I don’t get it. I may be prejudiced; I have two kids in their 20’s and they are both hard-working, moral, good people. No entitlement issues with either one.

  7. Dan*

    TBH, I find generational discussions to be rather bizarre. First, they try to use hard years to define the generations (like 1985-2000) or something like that. My brother is two years younger than I and fits squarely in the accepted range for Millennials. According to those definitions, I’m very much a Gen X’er. I can tell you with reasonable certainty that he and I weren’t born in two different generations :)

    Then you throw in the fallacy of averages issue that AAM raises, which is that while statistics can be used to describe groups as a whole, they tell you very little about any individual data point.

    And as this old fart would point out (after having just switched jobs) when you can’t carry your job around in your pocket because of security concerns, it actually INCREASES your work-life balance. I’m not sure I want to go to my boss and tell them that’s out-of-date thinking. I like leaving work at work.

    1. sunny-dee*

      Exactly! I have a cousin born in 1964, I was born in 1980, and my brother was born in 1982. They put me in Gen-X with my cousin who is 16 years older, and then put my brother as a Millenial. So, my brother and I who were in high school together were in different generations — which apparently makes us entirely different — while my cousin who was married with two kids and a mortgage was in the same generation as me because our lives and culture are so much the same. And that makes sense how?

        1. Xay*

          I went to a multigenerational workforce training that had millienials starting in 1978. But when we went through the generational childhood experiences, all of mine were Gen X. So I take generational definitions with a huge grain of salt. I’ve worked with interns in their early to mid 20s and in terms of cultural references, we have little in common.

      1. Miss Betty*

        Actually, your cousin hit the tale end of the Baby Boom generation (generally accepted as 1946-1964), so you have 3 “generations” spanning that 18 year gap. My sisters and I (a boomer and 2 gen-xer’s ) tend to have more in common than my younger aunts and I (all boomers) do.

    2. BB*

      I think considering this is the technology age and everything moves so quickly that even though millenials are considered born early 1980’s to early 2000’s, there is NO way these kids grew up the same way.

      Also I’m not sure when they stopped keeping scores at games and giving everyone trophies? Things never worked that way when I was growing up…

      1. Sigrid*

        Yeah — I was born in 1984, which makes me officially a millenial. But I can tell you that my experience growing up was quite different from someone born in the early 90s, let alone the late 90s. I’ve found myself saying things like, “well, we didn’t have the internet then” or “the internet wasn’t really the internet yet” (ah, the AOL days) when describing my junior high and high school to people only a few years younger than me.

        1. Cris*

          In some ways, it almost seems like there was a tiny generation between the gen-xers and the millennials – about 1978 to 1985 or so. Those of us who are old enough to remember the cold war, who didn’t get access to the internet until high school or later, who didn’t get our first cell phones until we were adults, etc.

          We may be technically Millennials, but being born in ’82, my childhood and high school years sure didn’t have much in common with someone who was born ten years later.

          1. Cath@VWXYNot?*

            Yes! I was born in 1977 and I think I’m an in-betweener too (although that may be in part because the generation labels seem to be North America-centric, and I grew up in the UK).

        2. Kat*

          My boyfriend and I were recently talking about this. He was born in 1984, and I in 1988. I was under the impression he was a millennial but seems he just squeaked into gen x. I other hand am squarely a millennial but have nothing in common with my sisters (1991&1992). My sisters don’t remember the internet until they were in junior high and only because I created and supervised their AIM profiles. They laugh at the idea of Y2K.

  8. Anonymous*

    Why is it okay to generalize and stereotype based on what generation you were born in (which is essentially age based), but then categorically not okay when it’s gender, race, etc.?

    Oh wait, it’s not okay, regardless of how the OP behaves.

    1. A Cita*

      Yes, this. Just another label with a lot of negative associations used to treat people poorly or make unwarranted assumptions about them. Label the behavior/issue (poor communication, spotty follow through, accuracy issues) and then address it; do not label the person. I don’t see how labeling a person is at all helpful. It’s just ugly and poor management short cutting.

    2. KM*


      Almost any time you say that someone’s doing something only because that person is part of group X and that’s what group X does, it’s a way of being dismissive and of giving yourself permission not to engage with the person seriously.

      It makes me sad that so many of the comments are about whether or not the stereotypes of millennial are true — the real issue to me is that it’s disrespectful to engage with real, specific individuals as though they’re stereotypes you read about once in a book.

  9. Bryan*

    Honestly, as a millennial I get torn between defending my generation at times and at other times feeling glad these are the people I’m compared against because it makes me look better. Maybe it’s more prominent in my generation, but I think there are people of all ages have the “millennial traits.”

    Specifically to my generation, I think there is too much of an emphasis placed on the importance of education vs. how it is valued in the working world. If you get a masters in chocolate teapot design because everybody told you it would lead to a top chocolate teapot designing job, then you end up in an entry-level position supporting the chocolate design department it’s a let down. In past generations while a degree was great, you would get your real world education at your first job.

    At the same time, formal education doesn’t teach you many of the skills you need and can even be counter intuitive. I think of how I had to take calculus in college. While math up to a certain point is important I have not come close to using calculus once. As for writing, so many times in school you have to try and hit a minimum while in the working world the shorter the better (while still being concise of course).

    1. Bryan*

      A thing I read that seems to also be a good example is: we were told from when we were young to get an education so that we would not get stuck in a menial job, so I got an education and told I am acting stuck up for not taking a menial job.

      1. sunny-dee*

        Well, I think it depends on how you define “menial.” If you went to school to get a degree in accounting, you did it so you wouldn’t have to get a job in unskilled labor like being a janitor. But it doesn’t mean that you start out as a corporate account; you should be willing to pay your dues in a low-level bookkeeping job or data entry or something related. I think a lot of the frustration with younger workers (of any generation) is that they act like they’re too good for the grunt work that everyone has to do starting out.

        1. Kelly L.*

          No, people get criticized if they (for example) are unemployed and don’t immediately start working at McDonald’s, notwithstanding whether they could make any kind of living wage at McDonald’s or even if they could get hired there. There’s this perception that fast food places will hire anyone, but a lot of them won’t hire an “overqualified” person or don’t hire during slow seasons of the year (like if they’re in a college town they’ll avoid hiring during the summer months). This isn’t about starting out entry-level in your actual chosen field.

          1. Delurking*

            Or if you do take that job at McDonald’s, you’re labeled an underachiever, slacker or loser.

              1. Simonthegrey*

                I used to work at a bookstore. In fact, we did have 1 PhD and 3 people with masters degrees there, and at least 1 MBA. Economy was starting to tank; we took what we could.

            1. Anx*

              By potential future employers even.

              It’s so sad. I sat in on a lot of meetings in college. There was an applicant for an internship and someone on the committee shot her down immediately because she had fast food experience. They went with the person with more volunteer work. They both had degrees, volunteer work, and part time jobs. But fast good eliminated that one applicant immediately.

              I heard that person talk about ‘worth ethic’ a few times in other scenarios after the fact.

          2. Tinker*

            Just to reinforce what you say here — I have a friend from undergrad who was literally told exactly that, that she was a bum for not having a job immediately after graduation and that she should go to work, in all seriousness, for McDonald’s. There might have been some stuff thrown in there about her being stuck up and thinking that hard work was too good for her, or some such thing.

            I’ve also had similar sorts of experiences that lead me to conclude that while young people (possibly in their role as “people”) might be asking too much at times, just about any expression of preference, even if entirely reasonable and in line with market expectations, can be characterized as Kids These Days by someone.

          3. Apostrophina*

            I’ve long called this “the Paradox of McDonald’s” to friends: when you’re in high school, it’s held up as a warning sign (“Finish that project–you don’t want to end up working at McDonald’s!” ad nauseam)–and then people wonder why you’re so reluctant to take any job you can get after college graduation, “even McDonald’s.”

            It would be much healthier for people in general to point out that there is some kind of value in all work than to set up weird psychological cues around specific kinds of employment.

            1. Delurking*

              What I’m about to say probably belongs in another discussion, but how messed up is it that we stigmatize certain occupations based on how much education they require or how much they earn? Society needs janitors and garbage collectors and food service workers. Why all the disdain for them?

              1. fposte*

                Reportedly, somebody once asked George Balanchine what he thought about the fact that garbage collectors made as much as he did. He said that was fine, and the astonished requester asked why. “Because garbage *stinks*,” he said sensibly.

              2. Jamie*

                There is no disdain for sanitation workers where I come from…they make exceptionally good money and it’s really hard to get in. You have to know someone.

                But to the broader point I don’t know of any society that doesn’t place more prestige on certain things than others. It varies depending on the culture – but human nature seems to want to create a ranking system and we need to be aware of that and confront our own biases.

          4. Bryan*

            Yeah, places doesn’t just hire anyone that comes in the door. Fast food places are still employers and they don’t want high turnover.

          5. Sasha LeTour*

            I currently live in New York City, and can tell you unwaveringly that a college-degree-holding individual in their early to mid-20s would be hard-pressed to find a job at any McDonald’s in the 5 boroughs. In fact, because of the economy, they are often seeking 2-4 years of specific, related fast-food experience. In other words, you need to already be on the fast-food track or else they don’t want to hire you. Considering that many fast food managers are directly promoted from line positions, this thinking makes sense.

            1. LauraG*

              It’s not only McDonald’s, either. Back in the 30s, the WPA was created so people could go build something, some sort of infrastructure to help their community or nation. (The Toledo Zoo is a great example; most of the older buildings and walls are WPA work.) In the 60s and 70s, a high school diploma could get you on a manufacturing line and they’d train you to fit their system. You didn’t need experience, you needed to show up.

              Today? Most construction and manufacturing jobs require prior experience or advanced manufacturing certifications. I couldn’t lose my job tomorrow as a Records Manager and go work on a line – they’d never hire me.

              We’ve been increasingly siloed and it’s impossible to just go get any job right now.

            2. fposte*

              Though the WPA was a federally funded program in response to dire circumstances rather than a market-driven track.

        2. Tinker*

          You know, one thing that I recall from that phase of my life was that I felt like I was not doing the right thing if I was spending too much time on menial tasks. Before my first professional job, I was earning near minimum wage and using the result basically for pocket money, so my perspective was based around “how many paperback books can this buy?”

          What my employer was paying me was good for a LOT of paperback books. Like, possibly even more than I could read. And I’d just gotten out of a highly idealistic environment that impressed on me how important it was that I do all kinds of intellectually challenging stuff because the fate of the world hung in the balance, etc… so if I was out digging a hole somewhere then it meant that I was kind of setting my boss’s money on fire.

          From what I’ve read, the folks who are more distinctly a part of the Millenial generation (I’m on the border, myself) are said to be much more idealistic and community oriented than Gen X, so I’m kind of surprised to rarely see that angle on the “low-level work” issue discussed.

        3. Delurking*

          No, young people are frustrated because they can’t find ANY job. If I mention to an older relative or acquaintance that the job market is challenging, they say something dismissive like, “Oh, well you can’t get the corner office in your first position!” Did I say I expected the corner office? Was I complaining about not making six figures? I’m just trying to find a job with health insurance, and beyond that, I don’t care what it involves or what it pays. My friends who don’t have medical problems are all looking for any job at all, with or without benefits. We’re just trying to stay off of food stamps. At this point, an entry-level job in one’s field is a straight up unicorn.

          1. Anonymous*

            I get a lot of “don’t discount contract work!” Hello, I’ve applied for contract after contract, and forgive me if sometimes I’m not willing to move across the country for a 2-month part-time gig. It won’t pay off the plane ticket.

          2. Laura*

            I just want a job that pays enough to cover rent, food and transportation, and not retail because the last time I did retail I cried every day. Apparently that makes me entitled. Most of my friends would love to do that menial boring office work – I know I’d love that! Is it really all that bad to not want to work at McDonalds after a degree and 3 internships? I would LOVE to do low level office work, but that’s going to people with 5+ years experience.

            1. Delurking*

              I was so happy when I did data entry! Or filing! For six weeks I was paid to alphabetize documents all day, and it was awesome. I can’t even imagine how cheerful I’ll be if/when I find a job in my field.

              1. Laura*

                I had a six week data entry/filing / little bit of reception temp job too! Andn I loved it! I would be so so happy with that as a permanent job. When I see permanent jobs with those duties, they generally ask for 2-3 years experience doing data entry/filing/reception, and they have no trouble finding people. Sometimes I see jobs like that as unpaid internships, but I’ve done 3 unpaid internships, I refuse to do another, especially not an unpaid internship doing work like that. Guess that makes me entitled too?

                1. Delurking*

                  Even if I could get one right now, since most of them in my area are reserved for full-time students, I can’t afford to do another unpaid internship either. I’ll join you in the entitlement boat…

          3. ella*

            This. In discussions about my general certainty that I (born in 1982, started working in 1998) won’t ever collect Social Security because I don’t think it’ll exist when I retire, I’ve had older people tell me “Well you just need a job with a decent retirement plan and then sock away $50 every month and by time time you retire you’ll be a millionare.”

            Show me that job and I will take it. Show me just about any full time job and I will take it. Do you have any idea how long I’ve been searching for a job that offers a benefits package I can afford? Blargh.

            1. Marie*

              UGH THIS. I get into this argument with my older coworker constantly. Show me the savings or retirement account that has a higher interest rate than my graduate student loans! Until then, I’d be losing money if I put it into anything other than this interest-generating monster that lives under my bed. Not that I still wouldn’t love to do it, if I could! But my loan payments suck up every extra penny I have, while my field continues to press wages lower and lower.

              I’ve looked at statistics from my field twenty years ago. Jobs with the same level of education requiring LESS experience than I have would’ve paid me more than enough to cover my loans, a used car, my rent, AND enough to sock away into savings. Those jobs today barely cover my rent (though they also require me to use my car for company business), and only cover my loans because I qualify for loan reduction programs.

              And good lord, that doesn’t even cover the “you know mortgage payments are cheaper than rent, right?” conversation. Yes, I know, but how in the world am I supposed to be able to save a down payment when I can barely afford rent as it is, and why in the world would I add another monster under my bed when the first one is already unsupportable?

          4. Windchime*

            Exactly. My son and his fiancé both have Bachelor’s degrees. And about $80k combined in crushing debt from loans to get those degrees. They both have full-time jobs (fortunately), but they are making $12/$14 per hour and barely getting by because of the student loan payments.

            My other son doesn’t have a degree and it’s even harder for him to find any kind of a job other that part-time gigs at a grocery store. It’s really rough out there right now, but the degree doesn’t really seem to be helping too much, at least not when it’s offset by huge loan payments.

    2. Anon Millennial*

      There’s also something to be said for having watched our parents work so much that at times they were hardly present at home, give so much to their jobs, and then come out with what? No ability to retire or fund their retirement, time with family lost, stress related illnesses. Yeah sounds great, sign me up for that.

      I think a lot of us have also realized that the previous generations way of doing some things is just not what we want for our lives.

      1. sunny-dee*

        Okay, for that — retirement is an entirely recent phenomenon. It didn’t exist before 1950; people worked in some capacity until they died. And for almost all households, there was only one income, so, yes, there was the stress of knowing that if you didn’t work, your family wasn’t going to eat.

        Even now, if you want to be rich, you will work for it. Like, 80-90 per week work for it, for almost your entire career. I’m in software development, and for guys who never will be rich, they’re still working 70-80 hours per week just to be competitive. You can make ends meet with a 40-hour per week, but those ends are going to be modest. If you want stuff, you work for it; if you want time, you will not be able to get all the stuff. There is no “new way” around that — it may just be recognizing that you are willing to sacrifice a certain standard of living because of the overall quality of life, and that calculation is a different one than your parents made.

        1. JustKatie*

          Sure, retirement is relatively new, but Millenials grew up being told that each generation had a better standard of living than the one before it, and that we would have a secure future if we went to college and worked hard. Of course most past generations didn’t have the security of pensions or retirement funds, but Millenials grew up being told they were a given for the professional class, and you shouldn’t have to worry too much if you went to college, paid your dues and worked hard- and for our grandparents and parents, retirement was a real possibility.

          (I also have to point out that single income households are actually relatively recent and was not a common economic model at most income levels for virtually all of history, and Social Security was created in the US in the 30s, though not in its current iteration)

          1. JustKatie*

            Ugh, repetitive comment is repetitive. This is what I get for starting a comment, getting distracted, and coming back to it.

          2. fposte*

            I think that as generations we do tune out some mixing of the messages, though; I’m on the cusp between Boomer and Gen X, and we were explicitly told at our alma mater (crunchy granola liberal arts, so not exactly hardnosed) that the days when we could all expect to do better on average than our parents were gone, and that your job career would encompass multiple different employers rather than a lifetime at one.

        2. aebhel*

          And for almost all households, there was only one income.


          Also, multi-generational living was much more of a thing back then, so if you were literally too old and/or sick to work, you were more likely to be able to count on family taking care of you.

        3. bad at online naming*

          Just as a counter example – I’m also in software development, and while there certainly are people that work that much, there are also quite a few that work 40-50 hours a week (a nice long lunch included) and are “competitive” if by “competitive” one means getting raises/promotions, at least at my company and in my area.

          And frankly calling the jr. software developer salary of 86-92k just “making ends meet” is laughable, even for my expensive urban area. Is it 1%? No. Is it worth less in terms of lifestyle than 20 years ago? Yes. But it’s more than making ends meet. (thankfully – I’ve done the hoping-to-make-rent dance, and it was awful and I am so grateful to be employed and so glad to have time in the evenings and weekends.)

      2. Bryan*

        I also think about watching some of our parents work at jobs that they didn’t enjoy. Unfortunately the pendulum swung back too far and the “do what you love” is a little much, I would love to be a couch tester but there isn’t a market for that (or is there?). So then we get called entitled because we don’t want to be miserable at work when we spend so much time there. Add in that positions do not pay enough to cover things such as a starter home or car like they did in past generations. If you pay me enough I will take a boring job but in my area, for me to get a detached home is at least $250k so my entry level salary cannot afford it. I make up for it by having a job I find fulfilling.

      3. Not So NewReader*

        Anon M- gosh, I hope so with all my heart. You nailed it, what went wrong with my generation. And I sure as hell hope that in generations to come people can carve out something better for themselves. The work to you drop plan is not good.
        The fact that people are articulating this and thinking about it gives me a lot of hope.

    3. Anonsie*

      “and at other times feeling glad these are the people I’m compared against because it makes me look better”

      I don’t feel this way, personally. I think the people that buy into the stereotype in the first place are also viewing everything I do through a negative lens and feel a mighty need to interpret everything as entitled and snotty.

      I’ve only come across a couple of those people though, fortunately.

      1. Delurking*

        In order to disprove stereotypes, you need the opportunity for them to see you in action. I once interviewed for a receptionist position that wanted a college-educated, trilingual employee to sit at a desk and open the door for guests, and then announce them to whomever they were visiting. Occasionally the phone rings and you direct the call to the appropriate person. Their ideal candidate would stay in this position for decades. I didn’t get the job because the interviewer didn’t believe that someone in their 20s would know how to use a copier or a fax machine. Without a foot in the door, how is anyone going to be able to disprove that?

  10. TBoT*

    People get so weird about generational stuff. In one of my earliest jobs, I asked who the target audience was for a recruitment brochure I was writing, citing some research I’d been reading about what was generally appealing to Generation X when it came to working environments. Basically, I wanted to know who we were trying to recruit so I could figure out how best to frame the workplace in the copy.

    Somehow, my coworkers morphed that into “TBoT is obsessed with being Generation X,” and months later it came up as a negative on my performance review.

  11. CaliCali*

    So many criticisms of “Millennials” are just criticisms of a younger generation, period. I’m in between the Millennial/Gen X divide, and I remember the same criticisms lobbed at Gen Xers by the Boomers. The Boomers got the same criticism from the “Greatest Generation.” Naivete and hubris are just the nature of the fresh upstart. And I would say 90 percent of us can look back at early career missteps and shake our heads at our misguided preconceptions, or overblown confidence, or lack of patience, because we hadn’t yet learned how things really work, and were just operating on ideas and education. Millennials aren’t some foreign species; they’re just us before the world taught us better.

    1. CaliCali*

      ETA: To be clear, I’m talking about the cultural perception of Millennials, not individuals.

    2. Marissa*


      And I’ve personally noticed that those who tend to complain the loudest about millennials being entitled and generally terrible are often the people who feel pretty entitled themselves and who seem to have some pretty significant memory gaps when it comes to how they acted when they were younger. Normal people recognize that every new generation is annoying to those who came before them and that most of us were pretty naive and mistake-prone when we were younger.

    3. Tinker*

      I’m also in about the same age range — I feel like I can’t quite call myself Gen X because I was reading criticisms of them in the media when they were young adults and I was a child. It seems like some things — the participation medal bit, for instance, which I think people haven’t thought through very well — have basically been moved directly over from the Gen X column to the Millenial column as those groups have gotten older.

      1. Kelly L.*

        This. I am classified in Gen X now, but when the concept first hit pop culture, I was younger than what they were calling Gen X then. It got tweaked a time or two. We were all supposed to be these apathetic slackers, and the participation medal did get brought up and it’s still the classic attack. You know what? Sometimes we did get a small award for participation in this or that. No one, no one, ever thought it was the same thing as an award for actually excelling at the thing. And it was “in addition to” the merit awards, not instead of.

        1. Tinker*

          I might be missing a piece somewhere, but I am definitely at the border between Gen X and whatever it is that comes after X — my impression is that “Millennial” is what used to be called Gen Y.

          1. Delurking*

            Sometimes they’re used interchangeably, sometimes Millenial means the group after Gen Y. What that actually means, though, I have no idea.

      2. Sasha LeTour*

        I agree with this and I’ve noticed that once you hit 30, you stop being labeled with whatever traits are fashionable to stick to the current “youth,” or 18-29 demographic. People of all ages would do well to remember that these generational labels are nothing more than marketing categories devised to sell people stuff, whether that “stuff” is a sports drink, a gaming system, a mortgage, or an overpriced corporate training program that will yield less impressive results than if you had just followed basic tenets of good management.

        The current definition of “Gen-X” encompasses approximately those aged 30-50, give or take in either direction. It’s not science – it’s the fact that individuals between approximately 30 and 50 years of age are considered “default adults” and “default workers,” and are targeted accordingly by all manner of marketing and promotional efforts. Did you know that the “original” definition of Gen-X ran from 1957 to 1963? Well, it’s true! Those folks simply happened to be in the right age range for describing the ennui of the first post-college job when the term was originally coined.

        1. CaliCali*

          Totally agreed. As I alluded to above, I’m past 30, and I don’t get saddled with the descriptors anymore.

          I think, too, it’s partly because many Millenials don’t have a lot of years of work experience under their belts yet. Therefore, their reputations are currently more defined by their personalities and LACK of experience, rather than those of us with a few years of work-related knowledge. I am now “CaliCali, with 10+ of experience in X, Y, and Z” rather than “CaliCali, who graduated a year ago and is just getting started.”

    4. LD*

      “Naivete and hubris are just the nature of the fresh upstart. And I would say 90 percent of us can look back at early career missteps and shake our heads at our misguided preconceptions, or overblown confidence, or lack of patience, because we hadn’t yet learned how things really work, and were just operating on ideas and education.” So true! It’s just the nature of learning and growing and gaining experience.

  12. Mallorie, the recruiter*

    I am so over ‘Millennial’. I am one, but I feel I fit the model SO LITTLE, that it turns me off. I don’t like thinking I am ever being put into that group — anyone else feel like most millennial stuff seems super negative? Don’t get me wrong, I can think of a ton of people who really do fit into the model (some of which aren’t even millennials!) but a lot of it just seems like stereotyping. I think AAM’s assessment about astrology is right on! Who is to say that WHOLE GENERATIONS think feel and act the same way? It’s kind of insulting!

    1. Canadamber*

      Blaaargh, I know! Okay, granted, I probably WAS a total “stereotypical” Millenial for quite a while there, but I’ve been working to change that. Plus, I’m only 17, so I still have time. :)

    2. Anonymous*

      Eh, every generation does this to the ones that follow them. It’s a cycle, it repeats over and over. Most people recognize it as a way to sell a bunch of books and magazines. But really most of the “charges” against younger generations are always the same because they are just about the difference in the way most people act as youth and the way they act as they grow into themselves.

      1. LD*

        Yes. It’s been going on as long as people have been different ages. “I see no hope for the future of our people if they are dependent upon the frivolous youth of today, for certainly all youth are reckless beyond words. When I was a boy, we were taught to be discrete and respectful of elders, but the present youth are exceedingly wise and impatient of restraint.”
        Hesiod – Greek Poet and Philosopher, 700 B.C.

        1. Not So NewReader*


          It baffles me. Because OP’s boss experienced this – that is reasonable to presume. Why, oh why, would she turn and do it to someone else?

          1. Anon*

            Part of the problem is generalizations about people that grow up in certain circumstances can be accurate – when broadly applied. The problem is people tend to misinterpret the purpose it is used for. These terms for marketing are effective and they do have some truth to them. But should you use it classify an entire subset of people that are slowly aging into a perfect model? No, there is no one size fits all model when it comes to people. You can guess certain people that fall within certain ranges are likely to have experienced these events and there may be some general trends within that group as a result.

            But beyond that? Everyone sees the world differently and has their own subset of circumstances they grew up in.

  13. Canadamber*

    What Alison mentioned – well, duh; of course NO ONE likes doing boring work… not just Millenials… :) Although I suppose that it depends on what you mean by boring! What’s boring to one person may not be so much so to another person.

    In addition, as long as the person recognizes that it’s necessary to do those duties in order to keep their job and advance in their career, and does them accordingly, then what’s the issue?

    1. Joey*

      The issue is that its hard to argue a business reason for not doin boring work when you’re entry level. When you’re past entry level it becomes easier to argue that its makes more business sense for a lower paid worker to do it. When you just argue that its boring it becomes a pointless argument. And pointless arguments quickly turn into whining.

      1. Naomi*

        Who said anything about arguing? There’s plenty of work I don’t *want* to do, but I don’t say everything that goes through my head out loud! I don’t see what the issue is with not wanting to do boring work. It’s called work for a reason.

      2. Dan*

        There’s actually a solution to that — automation. For anything that’s truly repetitive, you know someone is out there trying to figure out some robot or something that can do it.

        People at the bottom rungs need to be careful what they fish for, because there may be no job to actually come to.

      3. Sasha LeTour*

        There is plenty of dull, repetitive work to go around at every level of your career. I remember my first management job entailing plenty of spreadsheet and report-drafting work once I got settled in. Was it exciting? Assuredly not. Was it gratifying to discover time-saving ways of automating the work and freeing myself up to take on revenue-generating endeavors? Definitely – and in the long run, it helped my career, too.

    2. Anonymous*

      I worked in a factory when I graduated from college (an Ivy League school). It was boring but not unpleasant and I actually like it. Not super-boring – I’d do the same repetitive task for about two hours, then switch tasks. There were a total of about ten different tasks. And the pay was decent ($8 or $9 an hour then, which would I think be like $15 or $17 an hour now).

      Boring, useless work sucks. Boring work that produces something isn’t that bad.

      Frankly, if I could make six figures like I do now with boring work with a sense of job security, that would appeal to me a lot. But there is nearly zero job security in simple boring tasks – they can be automated or off-shored too easily (all production at the factory I mentioned tasks place in Asia now). Or at least priced down. No one would pay me enough nowadays for my lifestyle.

  14. Anonymous*

    I agree with most of the critical comments about “millenial” as a stereotype. For practical purposes, I think I might respond with something like “Setting aside the generational thing, I’m interested in feedback on my work.” I think this could subtly re-focus the conversation on what the boss’ actual problem is.

    As for the printout, I think this is like eavesdropping–even if it’s accidental. You never want to see or hear things that weren’t intended for you, for this exact reason. “Classic” anything = not a compliment, but remember you weren’t meant to know this was ever said.

    1. aebhel*

      “Setting aside the generational thing, I’m interested in feedback on my work.”

      I like that. Side-steps the whole Millenial vs. Boomer argument and focuses the conversation where it should be–on the actual work at hand.

  15. Marie*

    I know people who love to think in lists and boxes and definitions. I have a family member who is like that. I have found that any objections to being categorised tend to fall on deaf ears, and that I usually have only two ways to address incorrect categorisations.

    The first way is to engage with the book in question, draw out any good that can be drawn and try to shift the focus to those things (e.g. perhaps in between the irrelevant stuff it recommends a few things which are a good idea, and I can try to direct this person’s focus towards those things. E.g. “This book says that millennials like to know what parts of a project are their responsibility before they begin work on that project [not mentioned: and so does everybody else]. That really resonated with me. Do you think we could try it?”).

    The second way is to wait for it to blow over. I have found that people who get obsessed with fitting people into categories generally tire of those categories over time, nothing really changes, and six months or a year later they have moved on to a new set of categories. I wouldn’t be surprised if the next fad is Myers Briggs tests, or Strength Finders. And then those will blow over too. I accept it as an odd quirk in that person’s personality, but one that is difficult for that person to rein in.

  16. Robin*

    Just saw a segment about this on tv today— it’s a real trend that people consider millenials “entitled, selfish, over-educated and just wanting to live with their parents and play video games.” A variety of reporters and celebrities were shown making these type statements. I’ve never seen an entire generation stereotyped with such a sweeping brush.

    1. Just a Reader*

      Over-educated surprises me. The “add on” masters degree wasn’t common when I was in school and I wish I had the educational experience a lot of millenials have.

      However–I don’t envy them the job market. Perhaps they’re over educated for entry level positions, but not for the long term.

      That said, I hate the term over educated. Like there’s a point when you’ve learned too much.

      1. Delurking*

        To me, ‘overeducated’ has two possible meanings, one which blames young people and one which blames the economy.

        Interpretation 1: you hid from the real world in academia, probably on someone else’s dime. To be fair, I do know a couple young people who meet this description. They didn’t know what else to do.

        Interpretation 2: a terrible job market has created an educational arms race in which overqualified applicants compete for terrible salaries and working environments. People without college educations or 12 years of experience are screwed. It’s so disheartening to see a job posting that wants a Master’s degree plus five years of experience, and pays $24k in New York City, knowing that thirty people other are applying for it as well.

        1. Robin*

          The millennial guests being interviewed all blamed the economy, and they were so disappointed in the government’s handling of it. They didn’t seem to be hiding in academia (just frustrated.)

    2. Del*

      “Wanting” oh my god, that’s rich. I guess they didn’t factor in the crushing student debt and paucity of living-wage jobs for their nice little model.

      1. MousyNon*

        I know, right? “Look at those damned millenials! They’re making substantially less dollar for dollar than their equivalents thirty years ago, have crippling amounts of unregulated/undischargeable student loan debt, and are considerably more likely to be under or unemployed. Sure they’re entering a decimated job market where wages continue to stagnate even as profits improve exponentially and where a four year college degree is no longer distinguishable from a high school diploma so they’re being encouraged by market forces to get higher overpriced/undervalued professional degrees, but OBVIOUSLY THEY LIVE WITH MOM BECAUSE THEY’RE LAZY AND OVER EDUCATED AND ENTITLED AND LOVE VIDEO GAMES.”

        It’s infuriating how much crap about “millenials” is actually just criticism of the YOUNG AND PRIVILEGED, which could be leveled on the young and privileged of ANY generation. As a poor brown woman, I am (shocker of shocks) immaterial to the people making these ridiculous arm-chair generalizations, but as soon as someone sees my age I’m painted with the same damned brush.

        The next time someone calls me a millennial, I am going to say something decidedly impolite. *scowlyface*

        1. Delurking*

          Thanks to recent deregulation and bankruptcy laws, it’s harder than ever to discharge student loan debt! A friend of mine genuinely considered suicide because of his debt/unemployment, but chose not to because if he did kill himself, his mother would inherit his student loans. That sentence is so wrong for so many reasons.

          1. fposte*

            To be clear, she wouldn’t actually inherit them–you don’t inherit debt. But she apparently co-signed them, which does leave her on the hook for the amount owed if the main signer can’t pay; that’s pretty much what you’re committing to as a co-signer.

            What’s freaky is that some loan orgs have been insisting the main signer pay in full if the *co-signer* dies even if there’s a solid history of repayment. So people who’s Grampy co-signed for them ten years ago and just died peacefully in his armchair are being told to pay it all up.

          2. H. Vane*

            I’m so glad that mine have a nice clause in them that says that they are forgiven in the case of my death – I would hate to pass these on in the event of some horrible accident. ‘Congratulations! Your daughter just died in a car crash and you now have tens of thousands of dollars that you owe in her behalf!’

            So messed up.

            1. Omne*

              Minor point but a $100,000 30 year term life policy for a 19 year old in reasonable health runs $15-$20/month. If I was co-signing I would definitely take one out.

      2. Not So NewReader*

        Del, very good point.

        It was my understanding that minimum wage was set up to cover basic living expenses.
        In my county, TPTB decided that you can live on 9.17 per hour.

        I wanted to know if that was based on an 80 hour work week.

        I read stuff like this thread here and I want to write our county supervisors and challenge them: Figure out 9.17 times 40 hours minus taxes, health insurance, and other mandatory deductions. Arrive at a number.
        Now. Take your real income- and put in your pocket what you would have if you worked for 9.17 per hour. Put the excess away- pretend you don’t have it. How far would you get into the month before you realized you are in serious trouble?

        Dreamers. Really. No clue what it is like out there.

        1. Miss Betty*

          Of course they’d probably say the same thing I frequently read and here from opponents of the minimum wage (both of increases and of the minimum wage in general): “The minimum wage isn’t meant to be living wages. Minimum wage workers are students and housewives who want to earn some spending money. People supporting families aren’t working at minimum wage jobs, and if they are that’s their own fault for being uneducated/lazy/unambitious/whatever.” *sigh*

    3. College Career Counselor*

      See “The ‘Me’ Generation” of the 70s (basically, boomers). As someone noted above, that generation has been very much stereotyped for decades now.

  17. The Wall of Creativity*

    So your boss wants to pigeon hole you and treat you the way that people in that pigeon hole want to be treated. But you don’t identify with the people in that pigeon hole. That’s the problem. And there’s an easy solution.

    Go online and look for a free Myers-Briggs test. It might take a while for you to finds one but it’s worth it. Do the test. The result will be a set of four letters – my prediction is ISFP. Show this result to your boss and tell him that if he really wants to understand you by pigeonholing he should google those four letters. There will be shedloads of advice there for him.

    1. Cat*

      Yeah, I cannot agree with this. Replacing generational stereotypes with the equally scientifically unsupported Myers-Briggs test is not a step up! I think the test if fun too, but it’s not a basis for treating employees differently in the workplace. Also, what on Earth are you basing the prediction of ISFP on?

      1. A Cita*

        Yeah. Those tests are super fun and fun to discuss with friends. But I’d give a serious side eye to any employer who used the results of those tests to inform their management style in any way.

        1. Tina*

          I’ve seen many employers use it (to provide insight, not a rigid formula they followed) and seen it in play in my former office. Just using the MBTI wouldn’t bother me, but over-using it would. It can be useful in gaining insight into how different people think and how to communicate more effectively -it does have more research and validity than most Cosmo quizzes :) But some people do take it far too seriously, or like some kind of absolute, and you run the same risk as the generational distinctions – lumping individuals into an entire group and over-generalizing.

          1. Laura2*

            I want to know if there’s a personality type for people who get frustrated and annoyed with personality tests.

            “Would you rather read a book or go to a party?”
            Uh…this question lacks sufficient information to make a decision – who is at the party? Where is it? Am I tired? Is it a week day or a weekend? Do I have a good book to read on hand? Can I read a chapter and THEN go to a party?

            1. Delurking*

              This! And is there a type for people who get a different result every time they take it?

            2. Leslie Yep*

              I bet there is because I’m the opposite — I LOVE being categorized by personality tests! :)

              But still, I find it more useful as a jumping off point. I use both Myers Briggs and StrengthsFinder regularly with my team and I always include “what about this doesn’t fit with how you like to work?” It’s not useful to me as a diagnostic, but my own results have led me to new ways of thinking about my work that I might not have had without the prompt.

              1. A Cita*

                And one also has to realize that these results are static and how people like to work or work best can be very dynamic–it can change depending on natural progression (age, experience, health) or can shift situationally (for different roles, for different projects, while working with different team members or under different bosses, etc).

                When I took the Myers Briggs when I was in my early 20s, I consistently got results that are very opposite than the majority of responses I get now in my 40s (I say majority because I get different results when I take it). In my 20s, I tested strongly as an introvert. Now, I test as middling extravert. I vacillate between T and F all the time now, as well as S and N. And in my 20s, I vacillated between J and P.

                So yeah, I’d give a serious side eye to an employer who used these results seriously. We are not static agents acting as if without context.

                1. Anony-turtle in a half shell*

                  I agree with this, mainly because I’m currently in this situation. We have a upper-level manager who doesn’t “get” people, so she grasps at straws for anything that can pigeonhole people by and try to “understand” them by labeling them. Right now it’s yet another personality profile that’s taking up too much of our time, only so she can try to learn how to “communicate” with us based on a letter or two that earmarks us for her. She’s been going to all of these trainings to learn about how to decipher a worker’s “culture” to also communicate better with him/her. (I’m not going into the real background of my childhood at work, no matter what she exhorts us to do regularly, because they have no business knowing that kind of stuff and it isn’t a pleasant story. My sister went through the same thing, and we are exact opposites in how we have dealt with it, so I’d say that just knowing about my childhood does jack for knowing how to communicate with me.)

                  Just because you avoid conflict and don’t want to get to know your employees as individual people doesn’t mean you should use personality tests and “what did you do in your childhood for/when _________” surveys (that are then read allowed and discussed in the large group meetings). Maybe you should just understand that you’re clueless about inter-personal relations and work on yourself first.

                  (I also tend to test different each time I take one of those tests, because it really just depends on my mood. Do I want to go to a party or read a book? What’s the book? Who’s at the party? What kind of party? Who wrote the book? What I’m currently reading or anticipating party-wise would probably influence my choice that day.)

              1. Tina*

                My brother read his book at my wedding, sitting on a large rock, off to the side (outdoor wedding) :)

        2. bearing*

          I thought the point was to beat the manager at the game the manager wants to play:

          – OP has a manager who manages by stereotyping

          – OP should try to influence the manager’s choice of stereotypes in a way that benefits the OP.

      2. The Wall of Creativity*

        OP isn’t stupid, Cat.

        He/she can do the test and google their four letter code. If they get to a page that describes perfectly how they like to work and how they like to be treated than MB has worked and they can show their boss the results.

        As for my prediction, it’s a prediction based on what little information I have available. That’s why I call it a prediction & not a diagnosis.

        1. Cat*

          Yes, but a lot of those sites imply the test has a lot more validity than it does; the OP should be aware of that going in. And the boss is apparently stupid, they shouldn’t be handed another tool to pigeonhole people with. The last thing the OP needs is the boss saying “you’re an introvert so I’m not going to tax you with meeting with higher ups.” Or worse: “you’re an ‘S’ so I’m not going to give you this assignment because it require too much creative thinking for you.” Or even worse: “you’re a ‘P’ so I can’t trust you with this task requiring attention to detail.” Nightmare scenario.

          1. The Wall Of Creativity*

            Come on.

            If there’s something on the internet that describes exactly how the OP wants to be treated, then what’s wrong with putting it in front of the boss?

            If the stuff on the internet doesn’t describe how the OP wants to be treated, then the OP shouldn’t put it in front of the boss.

            All I can do is suggest solutions. It’s up to the OP to think about whether they will work.

            You’re so blinded by hatred of Myers Briggs that you’re more interested in dissing other people’s suggestions than in coming up with ideas of your own.

            1. Cat*

              I don’t hate the Meyers Briggs. I think it’s a lot of fun to talk about with friends and, like many things like that, can even yield useful insights about oneself when taken with a grain of salt. However, when you have someone who you know is prone to generalizing and stereotyping, you don’t hand them more reasons to generalize and stereotype. The OP’s boss–as dim as they may be–surely knows how to Google and may well not draw the particular conclusions the OP wants them to draw.

    2. Just a Reader*

      If anything, a test on learning style may be most beneficial. Auditory vs. visual vs. tactile learners all have specific needs that can be met for maximum performance.

      And it’s straightforward–no categorization of personality.

      1. A Cita*

        Very very true. I’m strongly visual (and tactile), and it’s really tough when doing team based projects with a lot of dependence on auditory. I’ve figured out techniques to strengthen my auditory learning style out of necessity, but it will never be as strong as the others (which makes leaning to speak/understand in a foreign language very. very. very. tough–a skill my work depends on–though I’m aces at social theory!).

  18. Lindsay*

    What irks me about workplace discussions of millennials is that the people DOING the discussing are over 40 and protected from age discrimination by federal law. So this turns into a one-sided discussion.

    1. Yup*

      Eh, sort of. In 10 years, the young people now entering the workforce will be mid-career people (i.e., The Establishment) and a new generation will take their place as the complained-about group. In 10 years, older people who are currently subject to age discrimination will be even *older* and therefore more entrenched in that same category that’s experiencing the discrimination. One is a temporary disadvantage, the other is a worsening situation.

    2. Just a Reader*

      Nope. I’m not over 40 and I’m on the other side of the conversation, as are many of my peers.

      And what world do you live in that 40 is old enough to be discriminated against? It’s mid career. It’s not old. At all.

          1. fposte*

            I’m thinking that it might be more relevant at strongly physical jobs and highly of-the-moment industries, and I bet it takes a bigger toll at the lower end where there’s more competition from people two decades younger.

            1. fposte*

              My impression of pharma sales is that it’s often a very looks-oriented business, and if so I can definitely see age as a perceived barrier.

          2. Cat*

            I’ve always had a mental image of tech start-ups that refuse to hire anyone over the age of 28 but fposte, physical jobs are probably the more common scenario.

            1. Joey*

              I think a lot of it is salary. People assume older workers won’t stick around for low salaries but young people have no choice.

          3. Anonsie*

            I always assumed it was because of the practice of forcing out the more experienced, higher salaried employees for younger and cheaper ones. More a protection of invested time than your actual age.

    3. DCQ*


      I think part of this problem is many jobs are based not on the ability to do the job (and be successful at it) but on an arbitrary “years of experience.” I don’t get that, I don’t.

    4. Not So NewReader*

      I agree with Lindsay. I remember working when I was twenty and it was terrible. The way people treated us was incredible. “oh look, the 20 something FAILED. AGAIN.”

      I remember the people who were good to me and vowed I would be like them as I aged.

      That said, I believe it is worse now. For all the reasons mentioned above.

  19. Steve G*

    What is weird is that there is so much focus on stratifying people by age but no categories for location. I mean, growing up in the 90s in Kansas had to be different than growing up in NYC. Maybe the term “millenial” needs to be adjusted for that!

    1. Marissa*

      And class, primarily. I swear most of these millenial articles were written by some frustrated New Yorker fed up with his trust fund kid intern who they assume represents everyone in a 20 year age range.

      The reality is far more diverse. Millennials are also the ones who worked full time while being a first generation college students, the ones dying in your wars, the ones working and getting laid off from your blue collar jobs, the ones working as your assistant who you assume want nothing more out of life because they put in their time every day without complaining, the ones who could never afford to study abroad or go to grad school or take an unpaid internship. The ones you will probably never meet and even if you did, you’d feel like they’re not as smart as you are because obviously you were entitled to all of your success and they were not.

      Okay, sorry. Getting off my class-fueled rage soapbox now.

      1. Just a Reader*


        I feel the need to point out that while admirable, none of these things is unique to millenials.

        1. Ask a Manager* Post author

          Yeah, I don’t think Marissa is saying any of that is unique to Millennials, but rather than that discussions of Millennials utterly ignore everyone outside a very specific set of (generally class-based) experiences and demographics.

        2. Ethyl*

          Well…..yeah. That’s kind of the whole point. NONE of the traits attributed to “millenials” is unique to them!

        3. Marissa*

          Nope, not at all. Which is my point. None of any of this has anything to do with “millennials” because it’s essentially a made up distinction that means nothing.

          If we want to have a discussion about how the nuances of how the uber-privileged are raised have changed a bit, then fine, but let’s call it for what it is, not apply it to an entire generation that is facing the same struggles as every generation before them (give or take a recession and a polio outbreak here and there)

        4. VintageLydia USA*

          And neither are the negative stereotypes about millennials. That’s the point. Age and socioeconomic class have far more to do with traits of an individual and the actual personality of a person have leagues more influence than that. But those bashing articles are written as if every millennial was upper middle class to rich and extremely privileged in darn near every way. They are out there, to be sure, but they are hardly the norm.

        5. aebhel*

          That’s…sort of the point?

          Entitlement, laziness, lack of focus, while aggravating, are not unique to millennials. Hard work, dedication, and selflessness, while admirable, are not unique to millennials. It’s almost like you can’t define individuals based on an arbitrary generational marker.

        1. Sasha LeTour*

          It’s ABSOLUTELY based on class. Witness the trumpeting of Lena Dunham in NYC – allegedly, she is the standard representation of ALL 25 year-olds. Except she and her peers went to Oberlin, and were able to rely on media connections handed down from well-heeled/connected parents and friends to launch their careers. Which is not to say they aren’t savvy at what they do. They are. But they are certainly NOT representative of the new grads I work with, who come from much more modest means, graduated recently from public schools, and have to work for everything they earn.

          1. Delurking*

            I hate Girls with the fire of a thousand suns, almost as much as when I hate it when people call Lena Dunham (or she calls herself) the ‘voice of a generation.’ Or when the show is called ‘the new feminism.’

            1. Ask a Manager* Post author

              To be clear, she never called herself that. The character she played said it, and the point was to demonstrate how smug, narcissistic, and out of touch that character is. It’s weird that that’s turned into Lena herself saying it.

              1. JH*

                I’m sure plenty of folks disagree, and that’s fine, but IMO, all of those terms do describe Lena. She’s just a rich kid who managed to land a show on HBO due to nepotism. In her interviews, she comes off as quite full of herself.

              2. LV*

                Actually, I’m pretty sure that what her character said was something like “I may not be the voice of my generation, but I’m *a* voice of my generation” – which is as true for her as is it for anyone else in a given generation. So yeah, the hate that Lena Dunham gets for a line spoken by a fictional character is a bit odd.

          2. Anonsie*

            Then if you manage to actually earn something, it’s assumed it was a handout anyway. Womp womp.

        2. Anonymous*

          Ugh, I hate how the stereotypical generalization of Millennials is all based on some small subset of privileged middle-class white people. Never mind the fact that the Millennial generation includes some 80 million Americans, and is actually more socioeconomically and ethnically diverse than any generation that came before it.

          It’s bad enough when you have to claw your way out of the ghetto; it’s even worse when your boss then decides that your age automatically qualifies you as a “Millennial,” complete with stereotypes of laziness, entitlement, participation ribbons, helicopter parenting, etc.

      2. Steve G*

        I agree about the class thing, forgot to mention that one too. But it does play a big role. I mean, if there are a bunch of new technological things like IPADs and smartphones or whatever it really doesn’t matter for people who are too poor to afford them!

      3. BB*

        Even within classes, there is still a lot of see-sawing. People who grew up in the same neighborhood as me were all raised differently. My neighbor was told to focus on her studies through high school and college and never worked a day in her life before she graduated. Another person down the street from me put herself through college by working full-time during and taking out huge loans. I had a part-time job in high school and college and have loans also. We all have different work habits I’m sure.

        1. Anthill*

          Yep. Looking around at my friends and neighbors, there can be a lot of nuance even in just an upper middle class neighborhood.

          I have a friend who didn’t have to work in college or high school. She worked very hard and earned her way into her job and subsequent advanced degree programs, but I think being able to focus on academics gave her quite a leg up.

  20. Jubilance*

    I want the term “Millenial” and all related research/articles/books/etc to die quickly but painfully. I’m so over it. I’m at the “old” end of the Millenial generation and I don’t exhibit any of the stereotypes – in fact, I make fun of the younger people I see who grew up with helicopter parents and were told they were special little snowflakes. That I get painted with this broad brush that doesn’t apply to me at all grinds my gears, but so do all the other stereotypes that apply to demographic groups I belong to (women, minorities, nerds, etc). In short, stereotypes suck. And falling into stereotypes when managing your employees really suck. People have been lazy & entitled forever, it’s just that labeling anything “Millenial” right now is the fast track to make money.

    OP, this is one of those times when you need to solicit feedback from others and see if you truly exhibit any of the negative behaviors that your manager may be trying to address. You may not think that you act entitled or don’t have a good work ethic, but you may have a different perception in the office. If your perception of yourself & your work doesn’t match the perception that others have of you, then you have some work to do.

    1. Anonymous*

      Don’t worry, since they are extending the “mellenial” tag all the way back into the 70’s now (79 but still), they are pretty much ready to start moving onto a new generation title bashing soon. These things stick around for long enough for the market to get saturated and then someone brands a new generation. If you want this to go away start talking about the next generation and trying out fancy names for them until one sticks. Its just the same thing over and over.

      1. fposte*

        Yeah, I think the Millennials ate Generation X. (Which is just proof of their entitlement, amirite?)

        1. Anonymous*

          I think we can clearly end the conversation there. And weren’t GenX the ones who were apathetic, so their apathy about being devoured by the entitled Mellennials is just proving all those books and magazine articles written up out of whole cloth totally correct!

  21. Zillah*

    Am I the only one wondering whether the boss left the email in the printer intending for the OP to see it? It seems odd to me that it was there at all – why would she print out an email at all, let alone a personal one in which she’s complaining about an employee? And, if she was going to print it out (for some reason), why wouldn’t she make sure that she immediately retrieved it? It seems odd to me.

    Which isn’t to say that the OP doesn’t need to act like they never saw the email… but I’m kind of giving the boss a side-eye on that.

    1. Another Millennial*

      YES! I completely agree with you- who prints out emails? I keep thinking about after-school television specials and the threat of something “ending up on your personal record.”

      1. Laufey*

        A lot of times we need to record things in hard copy form for our records or copy over numbers, so in that case we print out e-mails. But inter-employee chatter like that? Rarely bordering on Never, at my office anyway.

      2. Jen*

        Ugh. Boomers are always printing out e-mails. They have no respect for the environment and don’t even get technology. (Just joking about generational stereotypes – kidding honestly!).

        1. Miss Betty*

          Ha ha! I – a younger Boomer, 1963 – actually do print out e-mails. Not all of them by a long shot, but when one of my attorneys send me instructions over e-mail, I’ll often print that if the work is going to involve various phone calls and finding information either by phone or Internet. I use that printed e-mail to make all my notes. (And I keep those printed e-mails in my work pile – yes, I prioritize by piles – until that job is done. Then I send whatever information I gathered to my attorney by e-mail – don’t know if either my Gen-X boss or my Millennial prints them, though – and if add whatever I need to to various computer records. Sometimes there is a method to the printing madness!

          1. Miss Betty*

            (Please pardon the errant parenthesis, and of course that should read “…and I add whatever I need…” Can we edit our comments?)

        1. A Bug!*

          Your username predisposed me to reading ‘boomer’ in the sense of a kangaroo. I’m now envisioning a cubicle farm full of kangaroos. (Please insert your own ‘pocket protector’ joke here.)

        2. Zillah*

          Yeah, I’ve definitely seen that among Boomers… but IME it’s usually work-related emails, not personal ones. It also seems a little suspicious to print out something in which you’re complaining about an employee and then just leaving it where the employee might see it.

          The whole thing just comes off as passive-aggressive to me.

          1. Sadsack*

            My manager prints out email and then never, ever picks them up. I am not even sure if he realizes that he printed them. Maybe that is the case here. If the manager did a quick-print, she may not even realize it.

    2. Tinker*

      I think printing out emails might be a generational thing? Haha.

      But seriously, there are some folks who have the habit of doing that — seems to be a combination of vision issues with reading things off of a screen and not having quite arrived at integration with the computer-based office environment.

      1. Another English Major*

        I print email and I’m between Gen X and Millennial. I print then for all sorts if reasons: easy on the eyes, notes for meetings, writing on them, keeping track of tasks.

        I also gave up my day planner note book this year and didn’t get a kindle until last yearso I am kind of slow to adopt new technologies hehe. The funny thing is everyone in my dept thinks I’m some computer wizard because I know a lot of keyboard shortcuts, a few excel formulas, and figure out things by trial & error/google.

        I think it more has to do with how your brain us wired versus your generation.

        1. Anx*

          I cannot read on computer screens without getting dizzy. I would love to print things if ink wasn’t so expensive.

  22. SA*

    Perhaps you can suggest a development session for the entire office. We have done a few at my company – DiSC, Myers-Briggs, etc. Something that focuses on individual behaviors and styles and not generational stereotypes. You get your own personal results but you also learn about your colleagues. It really can help you better understand who you work with and how to best work with them.

    You say you’re in a small office so you may not have an organizational development (OD) group to contact internally but there are a lot of companies out there who do these kinds of sessions and are often reasonably priced.

    You could pitch it to your manager as a team building exercise. I know some people think these types of activities are lame. I believe if you have to work closely with a group of people all day the more you know about how best to work with them the better.

    1. Cb*

      We did a scaled down one of these in Res Life training and it was helpful in dealing with different communication styles.

      My supervisor and I were both oranges or trees or whatever and it was awesome to say, ‘We’re trees. We don’t need a load of affirmation and personal connection. Let’s send our messages in the subject line and be okay with that’ and then know that another colleague was a flower and therefore needed ‘Hi, hope all is well….’

          1. Jamie*

            That’s so advanced. I had to hand write emails to my gramma on paper and put them in an envelope which went into this metal box on the corner.

            I don’t know what the back end process looked like, but the packet switching was really bottle necked because she wouldn’t get it for days and I didn’t get so much as a mailer daemon message letting me know there was a delay.

            And none of my hyperlinks ever worked – I must’ve had defective crayons.

  23. Emma*

    I’m actually in the process of doing a research project on the perceived generational gaps in the workforce between millennials and boomers. So far it sounds like the OP might fit in with some of our findings, and a lot of the differences are showing up around the use to technology (perhaps obviously) Millennials that I have come across show (or try to hide) disdain for those who they perceive to be incompetent or even slow around ‘basic’ technology. They also seek to learn and access information in their own ways that may not be through more traditional methods. Boomers pick up on this and see it as a total lack of respect for the way things are done and then draw their own conclusions about how Millennials are not motivated or show the same efforts that the boomers ‘remember’ doing themselves. We are about halfway through the study and the issues are showing up more at advanced educational institutions than the workforce but its good to see a real life example . I’m a Millennial myself and my partner in this is a Boomer.

    1. Steve G*

      Good points. I hate the conversations with really really young people about how they access stuff online in weird ways and store stuff on dropbox to “be efficient” because it’s so hard to carry a .01 ounce memory stick, and “why don’t you put it in MS project” when it’s easier for us to do a spreadsheet, etc.

      1. Emma*

        See as a researcher I understand your frustrations because easy to you is what you are familiar with, and that is something that boomers value. As a millennial, you sound like you cannot adapt to newer ‘easier’ (because its more reliable/faster/harder to lose etc.) methods of working. For millennials, the way in which we use technology is all about being efficient and getting information the fastest way. Weather its the best information out there is up for debate. For instance while those 30 and younger are about 10 times faster to find the information about something, those who are 50 and older are able to find the best information more reliably.

        1. fposte*

          Oh, that’s a really interesting finding. Are you guys publishing this?

          I think that the individuality of “easier” is something a lot of people don’t get–I go round on this with a friend who’s my own age. Following the road that’s already built rather making the new road is always the default behavior, and it’s funny that in the two different examples both our millennial and boomer are refusing to do something the way they’re not used to it.

      2. LV*

        It’s not hard to carry a memory stick, but it IS easy to forget it. That’s not an issue when you store documents in cloud-based applications like Dropbox.

        And you know those “really really young people” are sighing to themselves that they hate having to deal with “really really old people” who are resistant to change and refuse to consider new technologies.

    2. Delurking*

      That sounds fascinating. The disdain for non-tech savvy people does sound like something many young people might be guilty of. What’s an example of accessing information from non-traditional methods?

      1. Emma*

        Non-traditional method examples would be things like supplementing your lectures with open source podcasts, or using forums or Google to solve issues you might have gone to your manager for before. Its easy to see how, then, if you are hearing about cutting edge medical procedures in your podcasts but the lecturer who is covering the same topic knows little about them that you would question what kind of expertise your lecturer really might have (even if day they have been practicing medicine for over 30 years) This would be the same with the OP, her boss prints out her work emails, something that a millennial would or might really look as a huge waste of time and resources.

      2. aebhel*

        I feel like some of it is projection, though. I’m a librarian, and I get a lot of people who need to be walked through very basic computer skills (opening a web browser, setting up an email account, etc.). It’s part of my job and I’m not judgmental about it, but I still see people who get very defensive about their lack of knowledge.

      3. Steve G*

        Emma answered my question, but I was referring to, and I don’t remember the names, all of those trendy websites like twitter or whatever. When I do research, I use yahoo, google, and wikipedia. So anything other than that is “non traditional” to me!

        Oh I thought of an example. Hopstop. I usually just look at subway maps/road maps when goign somewhere new….but then a “millenial” (LOL I hate that word) introduced me to hopstop. The site is good I just thought it was funny he thought he was making my life so easy. He didn’t get that looking at a subway map was easy to me….that I have a good sense of direction so don’t need a hopstop printout to tell me “turn right, turn left”….and I am fine guesstimating times, I don’t need to know exactly how long it will take me to get somewhere.

  24. T*

    OP, other than referring to you as a millennial, does your boss approach you differently from how she approaches the other employees? Has she used any suggestions from the books she mentioned?

  25. Laura2*

    What bothers me about the “Millennials don’t like menial work and aren’t willing to work their way up” stereotype is that people who ARE willing to do just that end up not getting the promotions and the recognition because they aren’t “visible to management.” Then they get criticized for keeping their head down and trying to do a good job with the work they’ve been given even if it’s not glamorous. Meanwhile their same-age coworkers are getting raises, promotions and accolades in large part because they acted like they were above that kind of work and that management should listen to them.

  26. Mary Beth*

    I just started reading The Truth About Leadership (Kouzes/Posner) and it starts from the premise that people think Millenials need different kinds of leadership, but the statistical evidence shows otherwise. Perhaps a good segue into a positive conversation about how you do and don’t identify with your generational identifier?

  27. Sunflower*

    Is it possible your boss went to other managers seeking advice on how to manage someone who has never been in the work force before and has heard some horror stories from her friends or her good friend Google. I just googled ‘how to manage someone new to the workforce’ and DING DING- tons of articles about millennials pop up with some interesting tips.

    The first one I came across was provide structure: the real world has due dates… I find this advice just strange.

    It’s possible she just was seeking information on how to do something that isn’t familiar to her and somehow took a wrong turn

  28. BB*

    From some things I’ve read about millenials, it appears that some workers are ‘scared’ of them.

    I saw this movie, The Company Men, and all these guys got laid off. As they’re going out trying to get new jobs, they find that they can’t because some company’s have discovered that they can pay someone half their age to do the same work at half the cost.

    I’m not saying this happens everywhere or makes sense but I’d imagine it’s a very real fear that some people might have especially in this economy.

  29. A Jane*

    I did have a colleague judge me because I was a Scorpio. Never forgave her for it.

    *drum roll*

  30. LG*

    So does age discrimination come into play here? If the situation were reversed, and a 20 or 30-something manager was making stereotypical comments about their 50 or 60-something employee, possibly to the extent of making an impact on that employees performance reviews, wouldn’t that kind of behavior be seen as discrimination against a protected class?

    1. DCQ*

      Unfortunately there’s no such thing as age discrimination against the young, which is total BS in my mind.

      1. H. Vane*

        I had a boss tell me once that if I had been ten years older, HR would have approved double the salary they offered me with the experience I had at the time. She had worked for weeks to try to get me the higher salary when I changed contractors (she copied me in on the emails). She was so angry about it. I hate age discrimination against the young.

  31. Keith Matthews*

    I could be wrong (it’s possible; I was wrong once last month), but aren’t there some basic job behaviors that transcend generation (not to mention gender, race, culture, etc.)?

    1–Arrive on time. Better yet, arrive early.

    2–Do your job as if your job depended on it.

    3–Find ways to be helpful to others. Make doing more than asked part of people’s perception of you.

    4–Smile. (Intersperse that with a thoughtful expression; we don’t want to appear inane, do we?)

    5–When talking, look people in the eye. When listening, do the same. And nod to let them know you’re paying attention.

    6–Find ways to make your supervisor look good.

    7–Don’t be a credit whore. People know where the good ideas really come from.

    8–Choose your battles carefully. Not every hill needs your corpse.

    9–Look at the time only when it concerns a deadline. Never be known as the clock hawk.

    10–If you need to be replaced, make them hire two. Better missed than dismissed.

    (insert closing zinger here)

  32. ella*

    OP–Start asking for help with basic computer operating procedures.* The Boss will stop with the Millennial generalizations in no time.

    *Do not actually do this.

  33. Anon30*

    I am technically a ‘Millennial’, but I’m an ‘old soul’, according to most. I get frustrated with interns we have that are between 18 and 25 or so that always want to jump into the ‘exciting work’ without doing any of the real menial/leg work or put time in before getting rewards (which we all have to do!). It’s not true of everyone in this age group, but there is a sense of entitlement in the newer generations entering the workforce, and that certainly leads to frustration.

    1. Anon30*

      To clarify, others are like this too – not just in that age group, obviously. I don’t condone generalizing or making assumptions!

  34. Anonymous*

    If I were the OP, I’d be half-tempted to start reading up on baby boomers to help me understand my boss as an individual. [Insert sarcasm.] And I could also leave a trail of print-outs that discuss working with a difficult baby boomer boss.

    (Just joking!!)

  35. Anon*

    While I don’t think there are as many differences in motivation and work ethic as baby boomers commonly perceive in Melenials, I think there are basic difference in style, especially when it comes to communication.
    As an example:

    What the editor of my paper told me on my first day:
    “You don’t need to do on day one, but you’ll eventually need to make contact with every town official.”

    What I heard: “You’re on your own time. Get around to it when you feel like you can, but it’s no big deal.”

    What she meant: “If you don’t personally connect with every town official by the end of the month, the next time I mention it, I’ll threaten to fire you.”

    What she should have said: “Making contact with every town official is a top priority. Please touch base with me by the middle of the month to let me know about your progress and if you need help getting in touch with anyone.”

    Often when new college grads get their first jobs, they treat it the same as their college classes. They are not being intentionally difficult, but they don’t understand that when their managers ask for something, it’s not the same as when a professor gives a list of recommended readings. I think the manager in this case is going too far, but I also think that middle-aged managers could stand to be aware of where their new hires are coming from and that they don’t yet speak in office language.

  36. Sadsack*

    Quote seen on a t-shirt available at The Onion store:

    Stereotypes are a real time-saver.

  37. Tinker*

    Something that I think folks have a hard time seeing in these discussions, which I think leads to a lot of hurt feelings and unnecessary conflict is:

    I think there are a lot of people out there who don’t mean any harm particularly, but have a little spiel about Kids These Days that they rattle off when the subject comes up. It’s not really meant as a serious indictment, I don’t think, and in general they do all right when confronted with actual examples (although possibly by way of You’re A Good One Not Like Those Other Ones which is less than ideal whenever applied), so it seems to surprise them when this doesn’t go over well.

    The thing is, though, is that the experience of millennials then gets to be that whenever a millennial is around — and if you yourself are a millennial, there is often a millennial around when you are there — there gets to be a nice little five-minute running down of their intrinsic (if usually minor) defectiveness as people, often by people who have more power than them or have power over them, whenever the subject *of them* is brought up. Which is not a really great thing to experience.

    On top of that, while by effort you can perchance be a Good Millennial Not Like Those Others Etc, you can’t ever not be a millennial — you were born in the year you were born in, for better or worse, so the judgment is always hovering over you even when it is assured that Oh We Don’t Mean You, You’re A Good One.

    This is a broader pattern whenever biases come up, and on other subjects it can get very ugly indeed — so to a degree this one seems like no big deal. And it isn’t. But as far as things that cause ill will among people it’s often the little things that matter.

  38. kristoff*

    I didn’t go through all comments so someone else may have asked this. How does this labeling go with age discrimination? I’m sure there’s no legal issue or anything but what if I said I couldn’t manage that old geezer because he wouldn’t work with new tech? I know that wouldn’t fly so why is it ok to go after someone that’s younger.

    1. Ask a Manager* Post author

      Yeah, I mean there’s a ton of studies and commentary out there on managing particular generations. But it doesn’t mean the whole approach isn’t flawed (I’d argue it is). And either way, it’s not something you can apply at the individual level; if it’s useful at all, it’s only in thinking about very broad trends, not specific individual people you’re managing (which is what the OP’s boss is doing).

    2. DCQ*

      I actually really agree with this article and think it actually highlights the positive stereotypes (of course, still stereotypes) of the generation rather than the “oh they’re just about ‘me me me.'”

    3. Tinker*

      Yep, there sure is a lot of pulp business writing out there about this stuff. Thusly the OP’s problem: their boss is reading it.

      I don’t think I’ve heard anyone say, here or anywhere else, that they’re unaware of this set of stereotypes. The negative ones, in particular, seem to be extremely appealing — I’ve never heard someone said to have worked too hard and seen too little reward to earn the label of Millennial, for instance, despite that this is as true as any other one — and they’re the ones that seem to be repeated over and over and over again.

      So yep, there’s an article. There are lots of articles. I’ve been reading them since I was eight. It still doesn’t make it okay to treat people, in individual interaction, like they’re instances of a stereotype based on exceedingly broad demographic generalizations.

  39. Not So NewReader*

    OP, you might reach a place in your head where you decide you have nothing to lose and everything to gain by just approaching her with something like “Boss, I sense some tension between us and I am concerned. I want us to have a good working relationship. How can I help us get there?”

    When she launches into the explanation about working with millennials, point out to her that it is very hard to apply a generality to a specific. Ask her to talk about your work and what she needs from you.
    If she drifts back into the track then rephrase by saying “Okay, what do you want me to change in regards to my work here?” Same question, different set of words.

    In short, keep redirecting her and steering her thinking to how does this apply to you and what you are doing.

    Like I said, not for the faint of heart. I guess it would be my last card up my sleeve when I had exhausted everything else. Stereotyping and painting people with a broad brush does not serve anyone well. Problems only get harder not easier.

    Her reading material is a crutch for avoiding her responsibilities as a boss. Management is a people job, not a nose-in-a-book job. I believe that if you want to smooth out a situation with a person then you go and talk to that person. Nothing happens until the conversation begins. She should know that by now. grrr.

    1. Ruffingit*

      I completely agree and think this may be the best approach really. Just deal with it and her head on, using the redirection you speak of. If that doesn’t work, at least OP knows she tried and she can job hunt for a place that will respect her and her work on an individual basis rather than lumping her in some category.

      I think the OP has the all pegs must fit their label problem. That is to say, I think the boss is seeing the OP by the millennial label rather than individually so that, as someone else pointed out above, if Employee X is late to work because of a flat tire, it’s fine, but if OP is late for the same reason, it’s because millennials can’t plan for emergencies, and so on. The label is being used for every thing that happens rather than considering it on its own merits.

      If the boss insists on doing that, the only solution after trying to discuss it is leaving.

  40. mel*

    Start leaving printouts and books titled “how to deal with Boomers” on the photocopy machine.

  41. TruthBomb*

    Well there’s certainly nothing surprising about these comments, particularly the ganging up and dog-piling on commenter “Just A Reader” that went on.

    It’s popular among Millennials to say they don’t like “labels,” so for many of them, their first response to any critical comments about their generation is to challenge the premise that “generations are a thing.” They’ll say generations are just arbitrary grouping of people born in a certain time period who don’t really have anything in common other than that. (Eyeroll.)

    Now, some Millennials are not so (typically) solipsistic as to deny the existence of Millennials, but they will push back in their (typically) snarky tone against any generalized criticisms of the group. It doesn’t matter to them whether the criticism is accurate, or intended as constructive. There’s no such thing as constructive criticism! Because criticism is, by definition, negative, and negativity is NOT OKAY. (They’d say it’s wrong, but “right” and “wrong” are seen as harsh and judgmental terms, so Millennials prefer “okay” and “not okay.”)

    You know what’s funny though? Ask a Millennial to describe the positive characteristics of their generation, and their resistance to labels and generalizations promptly gets defenestrated. They will effortlessly — without even glancing down at their smartphones! — reel you off a list of platitudes about why they are morally superior to the bigoted, sexist, exploitative, ignorant, NOT OKAY earlier generations who created and maintained the patriarchy and the paradigm and whatnot.

    Kids these days. Whaddayagonnado?

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