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A Bit of Research

While completing my Graduate Degree in Communication, I did some research into what the Millennial workplace was like, based on social media. Now, that was 4 years ago and pre-COVID, but I think a lot of it is still true. One more disclaimer: this shit ain't peer-reviewed. While I completed it as part of graduate coursework, I am not a scientist.

I analyzed 1,000 social media posts from Facebook and YouTube, spanning the years 2016 to 2018, selected to represent a variety of perspectives, including those of researchers, business leaders, and employees from different generational cohorts. The search was guided by terms such as "millennials," "millennial jobs," "millennial entrepreneur," and "millennial workplace," and the researcher followed the trail of posts these terms led to.

Once the posts were gathered, I sifted through the content to identify recurring themes, patterns, and keywords. I really wish I'd taken my statistics class as part of that degree and not the next one! Each emerging theme was treated as a new concept, with related keywords and variations forming categories, then I looked for patterns and similarities among texts from similar sources, organizing the data into tables based on the central themes unearthed during the initial coding phases.

I got the data down to four main voices and themes:

  1. Other generations criticizing millennials

  2. Millennials criticizing themselves

  3. Other generations defending millennials

  4. Millennials defending themselves

The majority of the comments were either criticisms of millennials by other generations or defenses of millennials by themselves (1 & 4, which is kinda what I expected).

The four main themes that emerged were the

  • Problem(s) with millennials

  • The root of the problems

  • What other generations want

  • What millennials want

The study found that millennials are often perceived negatively in the workplace, with criticisms including impatience, lack of purpose, addiction to technology, and low self-esteem. Interestingly, some millennials echoed these criticisms, agreeing with the negative stereotypes. However, there were also voices from other generations defending millennials, suggesting that the younger generation has the potential to improve the future. Millennials, too, defended themselves, arguing that they are hard-working and knowledgeable, and that the challenges they face are unique to their generation.

The implications of the study suggest a significant generational divide in perceptions and expectations in the workplace, which can lead to misunderstandings and conflicts, affecting workplace culture and productivity. The criticisms and defenses underscore the need for better understanding and communication between different generations in the workplace. This could involve training and awareness programs to address stereotypes and biases, and to promote a more inclusive and understanding workplace cultures.

Millennials, according to what I found, honestly just want to be understood and appreciated for their unique experiences and challenges. They want an organizational culture that embraces their uniqueness and understands the challenges they face, such as unprecedented student loan debt, a difficult job market, and changing societal expectations. Also remember that millennials are not a homogeneous group and there is a wide range of views and experiences within the generation. Don't judge a job applicant by their birthday!

This post is based on the thesis "Millennials, Be Yourself Sometimes" by Stephen Aber at Queens University of Charlotte, 2019.

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