Survey findings challenge millennial workplace stereotypes

The latest Kogod School of Business trend survey on working habits of millennials counters some stereotypes spread by older generations.

By 2020, millennials will comprise about half of the American workforce. A millennial is considered anyone aged 18-34.

Although some older Americans see millennials as lazy and not focused, the second annual trend survey by American University found the opposite, said Dawn Lejon, the executive in residence of the Kogod School of Business. Lejon said the Kogod School wanted to look at concrete evidence of what millennials look for in a place to live and work.


Millennials “are tired of being labelled ‘millennials.’ It’s a lot of people, they span 20 years, they’re very unique, and they’re not just a monolith,” Lejon told What’s Working in Washington.

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Concrete differences separate millennials and older generations.

“[Millennials] believe in work-life integration, as opposed to work-life balance,” said Lejon. Since millennials are used to blurring the line between work and home life thanks to smartphones, they expect to be able to do work outside the normal eight-hour workday, and relax a little inside it, too.

“Sometimes they want to leave at 5:30 at night to go to their yoga class, or happy hour. But they’re going to be plugged in later, because they’ve got their email on their phone continuously,” she said.

Many millennials graduated into a recession that has shaped their spending and saving habits. After dealing with high unemployment, student loan burdens, and tightened credit rules, “they’re actually pretty cautious. And they also realize nothing is guaranteed in the workplace. So they give as much loyalty as they feel coming back from the company,” she said.

“Millennials are the most educated generation we’ve ever seen; over a quarter of them have bachelor’s degrees. Many of them go on to higher education, so they see education as a way to get somewhere,” said Lejon.

Many millennials consider their work for their company too important for them to take vacations, becoming work martyrs.

“Overall, I think the biggest, most interesting finding is that millennials are not from planet foosball. They’re exactly like previous generations: what they care about most is having a job, having a good salary, [and] being safe, so they worry about the crime rate and housing costs,” Lejon said.

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