Millennials Aren't the Enemy. And Neither Are You.

I advise companies on how to get the best out of their Millennial employees.

Which means I spend a lot of my time hearing how Millennials are the absolute worst.

They expect so much, CEOs and managers tell me.

They’re so entitled. They expect raises twice a year. They demand benefits I didn’t see until I was in my 30s. They talk to me like I’m their equal, not their boss.

Every Millennial will be familiar with the refrain. We’re used to being considered an insufferable generation.

But here’s the thing: Millennials and Boomers aren’t nearly as far apart as most people think.

In fact, most of the things that Millennials want are things Boomers want, too.

Not So Far Apart

In a study by Addison Group and Kelton, Millennials, Generation X, and Boomers show strikingly similar priorities.

49% of Millennials, for example, would be willing to leave their current jobs for more money. When I tell my clients that figure, they usually start nodding.

“That’s the problem, they don’t value their companies, they only care about money.”

Would it surprise you to learn, I ask them, that 44% of Generation X – who are about 20 years older than Millennials – said they too would leave their jobs for a better salary?

Usually yes, this surprises them a little, but they quickly recover.

“Well, my generation was much more loyal.”

Really? Because 38% of Boomers say the same thing. And Boomers are currently at the absolute pinnacle of their career – they’re in senior-level positions, have a lot of respect and authority in their workplaces, and have spent many years at their company.

Where’s their loyalty?

Now, I’m not disparaging anyone who is willing to leave their company for a higher salary. If anything, the numbers indicate that more than half of all employees, no matter how old, like their companies so much they wouldn’t be willing to leave for a better salary. That’s a lot of loyalty!

My point is simply that Millennials aren’t unusually disloyal, or unusually motivated by salary. This slope in willingness to leave is exactly what you’d expect to see from a younger, less established employee vs. an older, more established employee.

In fact, if we had the numbers for how many Boomers would have been willing to leave their companies when they were in their mid-20s? I’d bet they’d be exactly in line with Millennials.

Millennials, Generation X, and Boomers all give similar answers when asked if they prioritize work-life balance, benefits, salaries, career advancement, and countless other parameters in the workplace. We all want the same things! 

So …

Why Are Millennials Seen As Entitled?

If Boomers, Generation X, and Millennials all want the same things, why are Millennials seen as unusually entitled when they tell their employers those things are non-negotiable for them?

In my interviews with Boomers, a typical answer is that they haven’t “earned” those benefits yet.

“I didn’t have that when I was 25. I had to work for it.”

I like to think of this as “hazing” syndrome. If you had to go through a difficult ordeal when you first started out, it feels unfair when the next generation doesn’t have to go through the same ordeal.

Which means that even if every employee would love to see a certain company-wide policy, they don’t want the youngest employees to have access to that policy – because they didn’t at the same age.

One unique characteristic of Millennials is that they’re simply unwilling to go through the hazing process. That doesn’t make them entitled; it shows self-respect.

They intend to be treated well from day one. And they want everyone around them to receive the same excellent treatment.

So here’s the big takeaway:

Millennials aren’t your enemy.

In fact – if you can adjust your thinking just a bit – they might be the key to making your company a place every generation loves to work.