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What’s One Word to Describe Millennials?

TBH: Millennials and GenXers Get Real, A 4 Part Video Series

In the work that we do day in, and day out, we are most likely dealing with people from other generations. I see the biggest opportunity area in bridging the gap between the GenX and Millennial generations.

There’s a lot of pain there, trust me. I’ve seen it, and heard it, and have had people talk to me in a whisper or shut their door because the frustration has gotten that high. When frustration is high, we don’t see options, our head is down, we think “This is just the way they are.” So how can we see hope in these situations? I have good news! It is possible....

I would like to share with you a four part video series that covers one question per day. I asked GenX’ers the questions and had two teams of Millennials view their answers and respond.

I’d like to open up a real dialog so that generations can see other perspectives which brings them out of the place of feeling really “stuck” with their boss or their direct report, and helps move into having courageous conversations that help minimize conflict and increase happiness in the workplace.

To those reading, please comment below as well to continue the dialog as well, would love to hear your thoughts!


Q1: What is one word you’d use to describe Millennials?

When we think of one word to describe Millennials there are a variety of unique words that can come up.

As the first of my four part series To Be Honest (TBH), we’ll take a look at GenX’ers response to that question and find out what Millennials think of their responses.

See video here

Let’s break down the commentary –

“So entitlement, maybe they’re confusing that for ambition or goals?”

Millennials, coming fresh out of college are eager to learn. In my line of work they’re also known for asking for a promotion after six months (insert shocked faced emoji here).

Tip: If this is happening in your organization (and you’re in shock) here are two things you can do:

  • 1. Set expectations with new hires. A well known fortune 100 company tells new hires from the start, you will not get promoted in the first few years. You will, however, learn the entire time you are here.

  • 2. Ask for clarification from a place of curiosity, “I hear you want a promotion… but what is it that you REALLY want?” Many times it's just to learn something new.

100% of Millennials will stay in an organization as long as they are learning. That’s the fundamental component. Why do they love learning? Technology was constantly changing and innovating throughout their lives, so they’re “wired” to want the same thing for their careers.

“I do feel like I work for everything, I feel like I do try”

This perspective is a key thing to remember and noteworthy statement. There is enthusiasm among this generation, that is for certain. And it’s important to channel that in a way that benefits both Millennials and Managers.

  • Tip: As a manager, set clear expectations, don’t think “Oh they should just know that already.” You might be their first point of authority since their parents were more like friends. You’ll find there will be more alignment with how Millennials work and how well your expectations are met, if you set up the relationship with transparency from the get go.

“All of us graduated from college with a lot of debt”

This comment was interesting to me, I had to think back to the situation that was at hand when I graduated. Millennial’s expenses are so high from college loans that they’re just hoping one day to not have ramen and PBJ’s for dinner! So part of that desire for a promotion is to help them get to a better place of financial freedom that some of us GenX'ers had when we graduated.

  • Tip: Companies can consider programs like as a unique way to serve Millennial tuition payment needs, which addresses the financial situation without a pre-mature 6 month promotion.

"When I find out I’m not being challenged anymore, I’m going to look for that elsewhere."

What this statement tells us is that if you have a top performer, and you have annual reviews, you’re not going to know there’s an issue until it’s too late. Agh! Don’t lose top performers, they are too time consuming to replace,

  • Tip: Have a process for check-ins where you can continually probe on: Are you being challenged and are you continually learning? If not, what do you need?

So just one word can have a lot of insights, apparently a word might be worth a thousand words... ;)

Happy to hear your thoughts below, and look for the 2nd question of the four part series tomorrow, Q2: Describe the Millennial Work Ethic


Becky A. Thomas, PCC, CPCC, is a Next Generation Coach™ focusing on helping Millennials and GenX'ers thrive in today's cross-generational work environment. Her prior life before coaching includes a corporate background in branding, marketing and strategy, an MBA from DePaul University, and more than 15 years of branding experience with fortune 500 companies and non-profits such as Jimmy Dean, Sara Lee, GUM brand and the Chicago Tribune as well as the National Restaurant Association.

Having navigated the politics and the complexities of managing up, down, and cross functionally she brings her corporate knowledge and international experience to provide insights and a unique relevant perspective to her coaching. Through her corporate experience of managing the P&L and having the responsibility for marketing strategies and driving profits, she understands what corporations need to get the job done.

Becky A. Thomas is a key contact for next generation leaders and teams who strive to Be Greater.

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