Why Your Stereotypes About Millennials Are Unfair And Potentially Damaging

On Monday morning, the CBS This Morning team was talking to a financial expert when one of the anchors insinuated all millennials live in their parents’ basement. The discussion, stemming from this CBS Money Watch article that alludes to the same stereotype, made my blood boil. I am a millennial and I have been living on my own for over 10 years. I have never, nor do I ever plan, on living in my parents’ basement. Moreover, I have been financially independent my entire adult life and I am more financially stable than most people in older generations. How dare they undermine all of my hard work!

Do I know millennials that are not financially independent or do not live on their own by circumstance or by choice? Definitely—but I also know Gen X-ers and Baby Boomers who are in the same shoes. It’s not a millennial thing. It’s a human being thing.

If you know me, you know I rarely write about contentious topics. It’s not because I don’t have strong opinions—I’m a Type A Virgo so you know I do—but because I find little benefit to being openly outraged about most topics. I’m a firm believer that you accomplish more by listening to other perspectives than criticizing, condemning or complaining about them.

But, that’s the thing about the older generations’ overwhelming perspective on millennials: it’s an unfair generalization that can impact our professional careers. You may think your bias is benign, but psychologists have proven your prejudices—no matter how well-intentioned, no matter how subconscious—affect your behavior toward us. They can cause you to overlook us for positions, for promotions or for growth opportunities, the very metrics you use to judge our success (or lack thereof, in your mind).

I am writing this to respectfully ask that you consider the idea that not all millennials are lazy or entitled. We can do better to balance the conversation. We can do better to stop dismissing a group of individuals, whose time of birth—not their traits—brand them as millennials. We can do better to show that, like you, we may not be perfect but we have a lot to offer in the workforce.

Next time you want to gripe about how much time we spend on our phones, pull up this article in Financial Fluency from my colleague Vania, who is in her 20s. She is religious about her credit score and uses her phone time judiciously to keep it in check. Next time you want to complain about how we’re not serious about saving, read this article on personal finance from Man Repeller, a blog started by 28-year-old Leandra Medine that leveraged its captive millennial audience to promote the importance of saving money. Millennials like Vania, Leandra, and I are not as rare as you may think. Please don’t water down our accomplishments with your preconceived notions about our generation.

(Just like not all millennials are the same, I recognize not all non-millennials feel this way about us. I would be remiss if I did not acknowledge you for not perpetuating the worn-out stereotypes. Heck, some of you even sing us praises, like Sanjeev Agrawal in this Forbes article. My sincerest thank you to you for giving us a fighting chance in world that tends to think millennials are the worst.)

And now, for your quote of the day:

“Young people are not perfect. We don’t know everything, sometimes we try to move too fast, and in some cases our ideals are at odds with reality. Instead of antagonizing us, listen to us, collaborate with us, and invest in our ideas.” —Tony Weaver, Jr., Forbes, June 7, 2017

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