Millennials, Generalizations and Racism


I’m just back from SHRM Atlanta where I ate some cupcakes and talked to fellow nerds about recruiting, social media and the future of Human Resources.

You know what else people talked about? How to manage Millenials in the ever-changing workforce.

I like to pay attention to what’s said about Millennials because I have actually managed three generations in the workforce: Baby Boomers, Generation Jones and Generation Y. Not many of my peers can say this. And I know that what has been said about Generation Y (born 1982-2004) has been said about every white-collar worker since 1948, including me.

  • They are coddled.
  • Their diversity should be embraced.
  • They want flexibility.
  • They value benefits over salary.
  • They want to be liked and accepted in a group environment.

While it’s true that a kid born in 1996 will never use a fax machine unless they are communicating with Sallie Mae about deferring their student loan repayments, I am not sure a new generation in the workforce changes the game of how you manage people.

It’s not like we manage people well in the first place, yo.

My favorite “Gen Y” writer thinks that much of this talk is garbage, too.


I love it. Let’s try it.

  • Puerto Ricans demand flexibility in the workforce.
  • When you think black people people, think social and mobile.
  • Asians: Confident. Connected. Open to Change.
  • Muslims do not use Twitter in large numbers, but college-aged girls with disabilities show the greatest enthusiasm for the application.
  • Native Americans want to work in a loose, collaborative environment without a ton of structure.
  • The Irish want unlimited PTO.

[Wait, of course the Irish want unlimited PTO.]

Just because you have demographic data doesn’t mean the data is applicable, relevant or even appropriately interpreted by a bunch of Human Resources ladies at a conference. And just because people have evolving preferences and communication styles doesn’t mean that the concept of management changes all that much.

Manage for performance by setting clear goals and demonstrating empathy for your employees. Motivate your workers with a better with a mix of incentives — including a crazy concept called equal pay for equal work.

Right there? You’re ahead of the game.

Everything else you hear about managing Gen Y is sketchy mix of armchair philosophy and pop psychology.

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