Getting Past Millennial Stereotypes

Millennial leader working at a white board to overcome millennial stereotypesMillennial stereotypes – we’ve all heard them. Here is a veritable “greatest hits” list:

  • They are lazy
  • They all believe they are entitled to whatever they want
  • They have neither work ethic nor ambition
  • They are erudite know-it-alls, unwilling or incapable of taking direction
  • They are victims of alternatively: their parents success, their parents coddling, the economy, [fill in the blank].

You need look no further than this article about Millennials in the Boston Globe to see how pervasive these stereotypes can be at times.

Are all stereotypes about Millennials completely unfounded, simply conjured from thin air for the express purpose of shaming more than 80 million (yep) people who are interested in nothing more than self-sacrifice, and to feel the sweet sting of sweat in their eyes from an honest day’s work? Of course not.┬áBut indeed many are largely inaccurate, exaggerated by overly-simplistic media portrayals, as well as by differences in experience, communication styles and expectations.

I know Millennial stereotypes exist – so what?

Irrespective of the data that might underlie and provide a counterargument for some of these surface-level millennial stereotypes, they persist. If you are a Millennial, it is your job to overcome them. How? Here are a few simple tips:

Respect your team, your organization and yourself.

This one shouldn’t be too hard. If it is, you need to strongly consider making a change in your employment situation. If you don’t, one might be made for you in the very near future.

Showing appropriate levels of respect for your team will help you to build the relationships you’ll need to advance you career, and to begin to be looked on as a leader. If people know you don’t respect them, they’ll never want to follow you. If they know you respect them, the door is already open to deeper engagement and trust, both of which are needed to become a leader.

Likewise, you must show appropriate levels of respect for your organization if you want to be taken seriously. No one in their right mind would grant additional organizational responsibilities to an employee who lacks respect for the organization itself. As a caveat, if you don’t respect the organization, you’re hampering yourself by remaining under its employ. Leave for what you consider to be greener pastures – or at least pastures that you can respect.

Lastly, showing respect for yourself – standing up for your ideas, being willing to have difficult conversations, and showing that you are taking your future seriously – will go a long way towards creating a positive reputation for yourself. You are your own best advocate. Respect yourself, and others will follow.

Share your ideas.

Again, this one should be easy. You’ve got to let people know you have ideas if you want them to believe you are contributing to your organization at a high level, and are capable of leading. Holding back when you have the opportunity to contribute not only hurts you, but can end up hurting your team and your company. If you respect these 2 entities (see above), you owe it to them to share your ideas in order to improve the status quo.

Earnestly listen to the ideas of others.

There isn’t much that will make you less likable more quickly than tuning out your colleagues. They are capable, intelligent people, and will know that you aren’t interested in what they have to say. Does that mean you shouldn’t have discussions and debates about differing points of view at the workplace? No. Does it mean you should let people walk all over you by acquiescing to their requests, regardless of how deleterious you think they might be? Of course not. What it does mean is that you owe it to your coworkers AND to yourself to hear what other people have to say. It is amazing how much you can learn by listening to others and using their thoughts to refine your own ideas. You can learn from everyone around you. Take advantage of that.

Leaders lead, regardless of age. If you are a Millennial with leadership ambitions, start laying the groundwork now to show that you want to lead, and that you are capable of doing so. As is the case with overcoming Millennial stereotypes, putting yourself on a path to achieving your personal and professional goals is a responsibility that lies with you. Leverage the resources available to you including peers, mentors and websites (shameless plug for to help you start of on the right foot. Or left foot. Either way, the important thing is that you take the first step.



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