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Debunking generational stereotypes – lets not stop with the Millennials

by on May 22, 2015

We’ve commented a couple of times recently on news articles that are finally questioning the various generational stereotypes that have come to dominate much public debate about age at work.  And of course we’ve written ourselves on these issues in our recent academic publications (including those available via The Open University).

Today Mark Stoever, Chief Operating Officer, Monster Worldwide, writes in Forbes about the “Millennial Myth“.  The piece is particularly useful in providing a number of links to relevant reports and research findings, as well as offering his professional opinion.  In particular he highlights the issues with generational stereotyping saying: “Stereotyping is never a good thing, especially when it comes to workforce recruitment, where you need to reach individuals with unique capabilities, passions and skill sets, not an entire generation of individuals. Marketers, recruiters and others have fostered the millennial moniker to try and get a handle on this elusive group, failing to realize just how diverse it is, with those in their mid-30s on one end and those approaching high school graduation on the other. They are CEOs and new parents, baristas and budding professionals, high school and college students; when it comes to job recruitment, painting them with a broad brush simply doesn’t work“.

For me it is a shame that he then continues to refer to ‘this group’ and the ‘Millennials’ as generalised labels through the rest of the piece rather than moving away from these terms to reinforce his message, even though he concludes we should ditch the ‘millennial moniker’.  He also chooses to keep some of the positive aspects of the stereotype – for example talking about ‘Millennial-age, technology-focused talent’ – rather than accept that if we are going to ditch the negative generalizations as stereotyping, we must therefore then question the more positive ones.  This of course is true for all the generational labels – not just the Millennial one.  It is of course as different generational stereotypes are constructed that the relative strengths and weakness become the battleground as the debates attribute these to a specific group so denying them to others.  Thus in seeking to keep the notion of ‘technology-focused talent’ as an attribute of the millennial generation so others become stereotyped as lacking this attribute.  These generalisations affect us all, whatever our age or so-called generational classification.

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