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Avoid the Negative Stereotypes of Gen-Y

When I speak to groups, I like to give them a little homework to help make them aware of what’s going on in the world of Generation Y. I will ask them to pay attention to the media and articles they see about millennials or Gen Y and to determine how many of them are positive and how many of them are negative. Overwhelmingly, most articles are negative towards Gen Y, or at least the headlines are.

Avoid the Negative Stereotypes of Gen YRecently, I read an article in the Arizona Republic about David Moskovitz and Justin Rosenstein, co-founders of Facebook. These guys are worth zillions of dollars, and the headline said that they shunned luxury for the start-up life. This was a rare positive headline and a great article. These guys could easily retire to a Caribbean Island. Heck, they could buy a Caribbean Island! It was a very rare positive article about Gen Y-ers and how these guys are setting a very positive example.

A while back there was another headline that read, “Gen Y Woefully Ill-Prepared For Retirement.” So obviously, my antenna went up. I read the article and they talked about Gen Y-ers at the youngest part of Gen Y, which are the 18 to 25 year-olds. I’m not sure about you, but I know I was “woefully ill-prepared” for retirement, too, when I was 18.

A major news story caught my attention about a woman in Florida whose child went missing and she was under suspicion. A national publication wrote an article stating that she represented “the self-centered generation.” Are you kidding me? An accused child-murderer represents Gen Y?  I just couldn’t get my mind around that. 

Now I’m going to challenge leaders to ignore the negative stereotypes the media attempts to put out there. It’s all about readership, because they simply want to play to the prejudices so you will read the article. Leaders really need to fight through that. Understand that the people in your organization are also hearing all of these negative stereotypes. On that note, I’m going to leave you with a couple of great quotes:

 “When we think of work, we think of work as an act of service. We think of it as an act of love for humanity.” – Justin Rosenstein

 “If we were just retired, we wouldn’t be serving anyone.”  -- David Moskovitz

Now does that sound like the prejudices we hear all the time about Gen Y? That they’re selfish, lazy and don’t have a sense of work ethic? Does it sound like that to you? It doesn’t to me. The hardened of us might say, “Well they have billions of dollars. They can do anything they want.” But I can tell you this, if I had a billion dollars I’d be working on becoming a single-digit handicap. I wouldn’t be thinking about how my work is a service to others, and I don’t think there are many baby-boomers out there who wouldn’t feel the same way as me.

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