SURVEY SAYS: Are Millennials Really Different?

June 3, 2010 ( - For decades as a mid-range Boomer, I have read (and relished) any number of market research reports and surveys that purported to show how different “we” were from any generation that had come before.

Only to find those same organizations later on made similar claims about Generation X in the workplace – – – and now Millennials (the kids of the Boomers). 

This week I asked readers if they thought that, viewed as a group, Millennials were different – and you know what? 

Well, before we get to that, let’s look at the demographic make-up of the responding pool:

  • 48.7% – Boomer (born 1946-1964)
  • 38.5% – Gen X (born 1965-1980)
  •   9.0% – Millennials/Gen Y (born after 1980)
  •   3.8% – Silents (born 1922-1945)

So, what did this week’s respondents think? 


Well, there was a broad consensus that Millennials are, in fact, different.  In fact, just 3.8% said that those in that generational swathe were no different than anyone else, though another quarter (23.1%) qualified that by saying that while some Millennials are different, mostly they’re no different than anyone else.

Another quarter (24.4%) said that Millennials are different, but only because they are younger.

"Different" Strokes

That said, nearly half – 47.8% - said simply that “Yes, Millennials are different – and yes, the Millennials were well-represented in that number.

I asked readers who managed Millennials if they managed that group any differently.  Now most (55.4%) said they didn’t manage anyone in that group.  But among the remaining 45%:

  • 14.9% managed Millennials differently sometimes
  • 13.5% said “not generally”
  •  9.5% said they didn’t manage them differently
  •  6.8% - said they managed them differently.


I asked readers to share in what ways they thought Millennials are different:

They are more tied to technology then other generations.  In our office, they seem to have their cell phones at their side at all times.

Not surprised about how fast technology changes.

I think Millennials are individually different.  Some have a very good work ethic, others don't want to take responsibility.  Some are leaders, some are followers.  They like to switch jobs often.  Some don't think past tomorrow and others are planning their retirement.    I know,  I have twin male Millennials (born 1981).  One works in the financial industry, the other, residential construction.

"I think it's by intelligent design that younger generations always pose questions and push envelopes that the older people have just become used to as status quo, or are too jaded to care any longer.  All younger generations do this and they are a catalyst for change.  I don't this has ever changed...only the issues they force, do.

I wish the older generations spent less time shrugging off the younger ideas and more time appreciating the innocence that the ideas come from.  Let's take that phrase ""Because we've always done it that way"" and toss it in the trash."

Answers/solutions are primarily mechanically driven. Technology is not a resource but a prime necessity. Focus must be continuously stimulated. Little seems to phase them as learning the "art" of the game of life/work/workplace seems simply a restart button away. But, they are far more genderless & colorless.

The technology age has molded how these kids learn, play, work & live.

"They grew up with different technology and they are very comfortable with it.  One Millennial said to me:  ""If I get a phone call, I know it is from work.  My friends just text."" 

In contrast most of my friends use electronic mail and phone calls, not text shorthand.  I'm just on the edge of the boomers: born November 1964, so I'm almost in between, but I identify more with the Boomers than younger folks."

They grew up with the parent-fed misconception that "I can do anything I put my mind to!" - a real false sense of inflated abilities - as most of them (as with the rest of us) are not intelligent enough to do the lofty 'brain-surgery' level of work they think they can achieve.


"I think they are dumber.  I think they expect MORE to be HANDED to them (like a raise for ""just showing up at work"").  I think they think government is the answer.

They tend to be more socially liberal. They are more digitally literate.

They don't have the same work ethic or regard for the company's property. Business casual is not a t-shirt with writing on it and a pair of jeans.

"Millennials are different in 3 ways that I notice:

1.  They generally want to do well and succeed, but not at the expense of an appropriate work/life balance.  They are only willing to go so far in sacrificing time with friends and family.

2.  They want more frequent feedback on how they are doing.  They may not always make that request known (in advance), but will let you know if they are disappointed in the level and frequency of feedback received.

3.  Millennials are totally comfortable working in Excel or trying new software they've never seen, and they are more comfortable than we Boomers are when working in a paperless environment."

"Most noticeably, they grew up with technology to the point where they can't function without it.  I've noticed some reduction in ability to focus for long periods; they get bored easily.

Also, the way they communicate is very different.  I know some Millenials who never make a phone call - it's all texting.  They would rather text than talk. 

They are far more comfortable with adapting to new technology, since they have had to do it most of their lives.  For example, in their lifetime we've gone from land lines to car phones to cell phones to IPhones/Pads (and from talking to texting to BBMs), all of which allow communication (and now do lots more) in a different way.

They seem more casual than other generations.

Most but not all Gen Ys are different in that they don't want to wait or work for anything. They want everything right now. They want to come into a job and start at the top with a top salary. They want the nice cars, the nice jewelry and homes without working for it. They're spoiled but it's not their fault. It's the parents that have raised them to be this way.

Millennials feel entitled to everything simply because they breathe.

Do not understand having a job means working.  Do not listen.  They repeatedly make the same mistakes because they are so sure they are right they refuse to alter their behavior.  Do not see anything wrong with lying about their work.

We've created an on-demand society, where every need must be immediately satisfied.  Those poor Millenials don't seem to know any other way.  At our company, we've implemented instant messaging, and I only know of individuals who fit into the Millenial Category who actually use it...

They grew up with different values and life experiences

Much more casual and less professional.  You can spot them easily at a fancy restaurant since they're the ones wearing shorts and flip flops.

Me Generation II

In addition to my day job in HR, I teach at the university at night, so I interract with a lot of them.  What I find is that most are hard-working, ethical, and idealistic, but they also seem to be VERY open about personal issues, specifically dating and sexuality.  They think "hooking up" is fine until they decide to commit.  They sometimes lack accountability and don't understand why exceptions cannot be made, e.g. missing class for a baseball game should be excused.

Less responsible for their own actions, don't understand importance and gravity of certain situations, more technologically savvy.

They have fuzzier boundaries between personal private and public information.  Heavier use of electronic tools/resources and social networking in all facets of their lives.

I think that Millennials are different, but not all of us. I am a 28 year old daughter of a (would be 74 year old father) and 63 year old mother. I am a firm believer that work ethic is learned. My Parents taught me at an early age to appreciate everything you have, and that nothing comes easy. In the past 10 years of employment, I have never taken a sick day (I am blessed to be healthy), taken 1 week off for vacation each year only in the past 2 years, and give 100% while arriving 15 minutes early each day. I never web surf, have no interest in myspace/facebook, etc - personal calls are made at lunch or during one of my 15 minute breaks. Work is for work. Unfortunately, I know a few 40-50 year olds that have a problem discerning the difference between work and play.

The Millennials means of communications seems to be limited to social media (instant messaging, facebook, twitter, etc).

I found Millenials are more comfortable in using new technology, which I generally attribute to their growing up with evolving technology.

They are much more tech savvy but they do not seem to have the same moral foundation or work ethic as older generations.

I think Millennials are most different because they want to be. I think that, like any group, the loudest ones tend to get the most attention and become representative of the masses, although that group might not be the largest segment of the generation. While yes, some of it is potentially a result of the Baby Boomer parents telling them "you can be whatever you want to be," as some studies have suggested, not all Millennials are as they are cracked up to be (and being part of that generation,  I think I am allowed to say that). That being said, those that want to be all about themselves and all about how they're way is/will be better or different.

Their face-to-face interpersonal skills are lacking, such as (formerly) common courtesies (please, thank you, you're welcome).

I think it all comes down to experience.  The comments about the round table and no politics in the work place - all very idealistic and for those inexperienced in the work place and not being taken for granted it's a great option BUT you still have those that stand out, can take over and they work better with those they like all this leads to additional politics.  Saying everyone is equal is nice but one soon learns that no, everyone is not equal and anyway a round table wastes way too much expensive office space.


General lack of the ability to concentrate and focus on the task at hand.

Career seems to be less important.

They have always had technology. They have always know "working" professional women - it's not new or different to them.  Politically correct is the way they were raised.

lack respect of elders, entitlement, don't discriminate

As a whole, they seem more impatient.  They want it all now and don't believe they have to compromise or pay their dues.

They don't realize the importance of saving for the future because they are too busy spending every dime on gadgets and large homes / fancy cars.  But then again, that's what we're supposed to do to support the economy, right?

Millennials, and to some extent Gen Xers, seem to have a stronger sense of entitlement than Boomers.  On the positive side, they seem better able to multitask and generally have better computer skills.

I am on the border of Gen X and Y but fall into Gen Y.  I find that the younger members of Gen Y who are only even a few years younger than myself, and maybe to an extent some of my peers who are the same age as I am, are very "entitled." They do not want to work their way up, and feel they should be given higher status just because "they are smart" and have received a college education.

While there are notable exceptions, Millennials do indeed have a sense of entitlement, are less willing to work past their scheduled hours, and expect promotions much sooner than earned.

They are more adept at the tools available to them that weren't available to previous generations.  They text, email, post on Facebook and Twitter, where as previous generations had to talk to others to communicate.

Millenials in general seem to have a different approach to workplace policies.

Many Millennials I work with have a wonderful sensibility about work/life balance - they're smart enough to know (by experience, being children of Boomers or early Gen Xers like me) that working crazy hours has a negative impact on family life and personal time.  My 25-year old son works hard, but knows where to draw the line to keep his life whole.  Too bad he had to see me stressed out on a regular basis to learn that tough lesson.

IMO, Millennials are different because they are the children of boomers from the ME generation of the 80's where status was everything.  They watched as their parents put in long hours at work and missed their soccer games and music recitals just to get to the next rung on the corporate ladder.  Millennials have a very good perspective about work/life balance and while they may not be in the office past 5pm, you get a full, productive, creative and innovative 8 hours from them.

Technology - we had to learn it as a 2nd skill set, it's embedded in Millennials' way of life.

The biggest difference I see is a lack of understanding that some answers they need for problems require research and reaching out to people to get those answers.  For example, if a millennial comes to my office and asks if I can help figure out why a medical claim was not paid, he or she gets impatient when hearing that I cannot just pull up an explanation on my computer.  It seems that they are so used to instant access to most things that any waiting is truly a waste of their time.

Millenials tend to act and dress more casual, are more easily distracted, and have a weaker work ethic.

Having been reared in a brave new world, Millenials have much different expectations than those preceding them.  Their sense of entitlement and work ethic differ significantly.  Physical appearance seems more important than character to many of them.

They do have a sense of entitlement that is not commensurate with "paying their dues" or putting in the appropriate level of effort.

Many appear to have a sense that we all live in their world, as opposed to we all live in a world together.

Millenials with whom I work, or have worked, seem to have the "entitlement gene," and they are often spoiled, arrogant and unwilling to ask for assistance when they need it the most.  Also, Mom and Dad are often still providing substantial financial assistance, even after more than 4 years of college.

My generation seems more entitled - and don't necessarily work as hard.

I'm concerned that people from my generation are losing the ability to interact with people face-to-face.

Millennials think they are different but they aren’t, just like all younger people they think they have the answers.  When I was younger I could use all the terms of art, all the buzz words, to make it sound like I knew what I was talking about but did not have the foundation of  experience/judgement that I needed.  This is very dangerous because young people can talk like they know what is going on so people will follow thier direction  but without the foundation they can really lead us down the wrong path.  Bottom line they are not different they just want to think they are and people of my age are afraid to say it because it makes them look out of touch.

Because children are born from the culmination of mass consciousness, they know what has been asked for by those who have gone before and where the current level of technology has progressed.  That is why they seem "cable ready".  This is always true.  It is what creates the generation gap.  "Mass consciousness" expands after we are here but we were launched from "mass consciousness" as it existed when we were born while it has expanded all the days of our lives so the newer ones come from a more expanded "mass consciousness".


I also asked readers to share any comments on generational “gaps”:

I think the gap between Silents and Boomers is much larger than between boomers & Gen X or Millennials.  I am 49; my mother is 83, and I can relate to the way Gen X & Millennials think, whereas she cannot relate to the way anyone younger (including Boomers) can think.  I think it's technology oriented; her biggest challenge was working the microwave when we got her one years ago.  She has no cell phone and doesn't know how to turn a computer on.  She was already set in her ways when that stuff came out so she doesn't think she needs it.  Boomers started to gain technology when we were still fairly young, so we can relate to the thinking of those generations younger than us.

Gaps are good. Great, but difficult, lessons were learned from the "war to end all wars" which was between the Silents & Boomers. There are rules & rifts we swore we'd never carry forward to our kids and many, we now know (or at least now say we know), that we should have. Between each gap there's a big learning curve and a different neutral/comfort zone. Maybe I'm just gettin' old but I'm noticing, it seems, that the "X's" and "Millie's" are far more apt to take me along (ok, maybe it's drag me along) as I was more apt to compete against them and the Silent's before them.

The good news:  someone being different in gender, sexual orientation, and ethnicity is less of a big deal to the the younger folks.

Every "younger" generation views things differently, just as any new person entering a new work situation views processes, programs, values, culture through their own eyes without the bias that comes from experience and familiarization. I don't think their reaction to work places of today are any different than how boomers entered the workforce - new ideas, new ways of doing things. Of course things have changed around these generation groups - more technology, less job stability, more mobility - all enabled by environmental changes. So of course these will have an impact on these workers, just as these have impacted those of us who are older. I really dislike generational categories or broad generationalizations based on arbitrary age groupings. So many other things impact how people behave - their own upbringing, their smarts, their sense of humor, their ability to use logic, their DiSC or Myers Briggs personality style/traits - that to broadly categorize and then establish programs or benefits tailored to fit a broad category is short-sighted and bound to fail.

"Well, I guess I can be harsh, but taken as a whole, I see Millenials as whiney ""I want it NOW and I want it MY WAY"" types.  Heck, I've seen a lot of money invested in training for folks who have to manage millenials.  Stuff like, how do you deal with the millenial who is hired day 1 and wants a ""C"" title (and works in a retail store selling phones?  Or the millenial who wants to speak to the CEO of a company with 300K employees, and think the CEO will make time for him?  Or expects to get a raise because he showed up at work on time all year long? 

BUT, seeing all of this DOES make it easier to spot the good ones.  They stick out like those HUGE veggies grown with MiracleGro amongst the puny carrots of the garden.  So you might interview 500 idiot millenials, but then you'll get one go-getter who never expected anything to be handed to her on a silver platter, who worked two jobs to get through school, who always went above and beyond the call of duty.  And you'll hire that person on the spot. 

So although as a whole (and perhaps it's just the media's portrayal of them), I see millenials as slackers, but there are the ""good ones"" there.  And perhaps that's the way it's always been."

They don't always want to know what the reason is for certain practices. Without that knowledge they try to put inappropriate items in a recipe they have been given.

I try not to micromanage the technology parts of the project.  They know how to get Excel to do something far better than I do so I just tell them the goal and let them go at it.  When the techology was newer (say 15 years ago or so) and I knew how to do most of it, I could give the staff specific directions on how to program.  But not anymore!

Boomers seem more passionate, Xers more disengaged, Millenials more casual.  Of the three, I have to say that Xers are my least favorite generation.

Millennials demand respect immediately in the workplace and don't feel as though they need to earn it.  I'm so tired of the lazy and disrespectful attitudes.

The whole "we're going to change the world" mantra is hardly new.  To change it, you have to apply yourself.  I see less applying, so I am expecting less changing.

There are always gaps, and each generation is less confident in the one to follow...each new generation has slightly different characteristics based on how the previous generation raised them.

IMHO, Technology has made later generations lazy and unable to do simple math / grammer / etc. The other day, my sister, who is 4 years older than me asked me how much a skirt would be at 10% off, then saving an additional 20%. I mean, really?!?! She was ready to pull out her phone for the calculator.

It's all themes and variations.  We all become our parents eventually.

They don't respond well to normal work structures - these are your jobs tasks for which you are responsible.  They have to "feel" like doing the work and "believe" in it and some such rot.  They've not been hungry.  Clearly.

"I think technology has reduced their in-person, face-to-face interpersonal skills.  They expect a call back based upon presumed caller ID rather than leaving a message, use far too many acronyms and abbreviations to be clear to a wider audience, and they seem to rarely say ""thank you"" for anything.  Even those who are ""adults"" now seem intent on mocking anyone who has even a slightly older version of technology than the latest cutting-edge new-release thing they just rushed out to buy. 

But, on the other hand, they seem no more self-absorbed as a group than Baby Boomers--the last generation to get as much over-exposure in the media as the Millennials."

Each generation has different experiences - the great depression, World War, unwanted foreighn wars, local politics, world politics but it seems that eventually everyone grows up and realizes what is important and what isn't, and it's not the same thing for everyone.   Turning age 16 in 1969 I wanted peace, everyone taking care of everyone else and having a good time 24/7.  I now get up early to come into work, which I enjoy, and can't wait to get  home to see the grand kids - life is different from what I thought it would be.......

The main challenge in generational communication is the differences in childhood cultural references - my baby boomer husband never watched Sesame Street or Schoolhouse Rock, and neither do my Millenial children.

My daughter and her husband are Millennials - their expectations are different - they have always had more - just like the boomers had more than their Depression era parents.  I would say that Millennials are less tolerant of things that do not work - they do not accept "that's the way it is" as an explanation for bad things to continue.  They expect problems to be solved, not worked around.

Generational gaps seem to be a matter where an older generation is unable to keep up with the faster pace of change in the world - primarily brought on by an ever changing technology.  It doesn't make a difference what time period it is - each succeeding generation outpaces the older and becomes more impatient for change - to make it better, faster, and able to do more.  If someone from an older generation can keep up and continues to evolve - then maybe there isn't a generational gap.  And, maybe the generational gap is just a state of mind.

I find this whole generational issue confusing.  We all go through changes in our lives.  When we're brand new, we thought we could rule the world, then, we learned that others were wiser, had more experience and understood the issues better.  As we got older and wiser, we drew on our knowledge to drive change.  As I am now nearing retirement, I have more knowledge and understanding, but I also know that everyone else is in their own stage in life, and I'm not interested in pushing for my idea, but cooperating with others to get something done that all feel a part of - because in a few years I won't be in this job and someone else will take over, with their own way of doing things.  My only hope is that I make life easier and more fulfilling for those I work with.

Each generation is different, based upon upbringing and events and technology that they are exposed to.

One thing I have noticed within our organization is that the younger crowd ("Millenials") seems to be more receptive of flexible workplace policies (e.g. 4-day work weeks, working remotely, flexible schedules, etc.), while the older generations generally are more skeptical of embracing those.  But, for the most part, people are people and I don't think this generation is really that much different than any other at the core.

Other than the technology thing, they are pretty much the same as the rest of us, just younger and less experienced.

Millennials are definitely a lot inkier than most.

I have found that age does not matter.  I need people of any age who can THINK, make an analysis, and then a decision.  And the person's age seems to have little or nothing to do with it.  Experience does help, and that can come with age.  But, someone who can think can be trained and given experience.  All the age and time in the world won't help someone who can't think.

As a manager I treat each individual as a unique personality but under the same rules.

They are living in a disposable world too far removed form the Great Depression, thus many in comparison to other "older" generations appear to: display a greater sense of entitlement; be less appreciative for what they have; show less respect to other people and/or things; have a less than admirable work ethic; be more spoiled in various ways (most likely a result of having both parents working who can provide more than they had when kids or even coming from more broken homes since divorces are more common in a world where both parents have a job); and even less athletic (most likely as a result of being more consumed with the electronic gaming world and other e-media tools than the outdoor activities of past generations).  I am part to blame as a parent of 3 Millennials, who I already see having some of these qualities at such a young age, despite my efforts to instill my values I learned from my "Boomer" parents and my grandparents as well.

Millenials in our office have been known to throw lavish birthday parties for themselves (with fees charged to attendees to cover all costs and gifts expected) and they have exhibited a disdain for traditional working hours, even when our clients expect them to be available for meetings.  Admitting that they need assistance from older co-workers has been a challenge, but honestly, we'd much rather help them than have them produce sub-standard work.  We all started somewhere and we've built our knowledge over time and we know that they need to learn, too.  On the up-side, their use of technology is impressive and I hope that my children - Gen Z?? - will call me as much as our Millennials call theirs.

Every "new" generation thinks its going to change the world with its impact. In reality, is evolution occurs over time, with multiple generations driving different aspects of change. Yes, Boomers maybe phasing out, but are they not still driving massive change/innovation in healthcare services, products, and their delivery? What's different from generation to generation, and generally NOT foreseen, is the actual ways in which the generation itself drives change. For instance, the so-called ME generation spawned the internet and its accompanying free-wheeling, share-all social aspects; who would have foreseen that 30 years ago?

All the technological resources we have now provide great ways to connect with people, but I'm concerned that while we're increasing the quantity of our communication, we may be decreasing the quality.  I'm on Facebook, and I text when I must, but when possible I really prefer having actual face-to-face conversations or at least using written communication that shows some slight consideration for grammar and punctuation rules.  I'm concerned my generation may be losing the abilities to interact with people face-to-face and write in complete sentences.

Why treat them differently, people are people and motivated by the same basic needs.


Some of my favorites comments were:

Just try to separate one of them from their cell phone - you'll see the difference!  They're aliens, of course.  They keep in contact with one another through their electronic gadgets.

Born in 1965, I'm a Gen Xer who spent my teenage years wishing I were a Baby Boomer, since they got all the attention.  Now, I'm wishing I were a Millennial, since they're so gosh-darned young!

However, if I ever need to get something 'fixed' on my computer, I will get a Millennial to do it.  They have NO fear of breaking anything!"

Youth is still wasted on the young.

At work it is mostly the Millennials that keep facebook open on their computers all day long.  AAAGH. Stop chewing up our broadband so I can do little things like run payroll.

But this week’s Editor’s Choice goes to the reader who noted “The music you hear around the office isn't what it use to be.” 

Thanks to everyone who participated in our survey!