There are 75.4 million millennials in the U.S., making them the country's largest living generation. Naturally, with a group that large, any generalization you try to make will be...let's just say "flawed." Even so, these preconceived notions keep getting repeated -- and widely accepted.
In this clip from Motley Fool Answers, Alison Southwick and Robert Brokamp dig into the stereotypes and see if they're supported or refuted by cold, hard facts and scholarly research. First on our list: They're self-centered and think they deserve everything without effort. True or false? Let's find out.
A full transcript follows the video.
This podcast was recorded on July 26, 2016.
Alison Southwick: Today we're going to look at some of the commonly held beliefs about millennials, and see if they really are the special snowflakes of lazy entitlement everyone says they are. Let's dive into the commonly held belief that millennials are entitled narcissists.
Robert Brokamp: Is it true?
Alison: Well, you maybe have seen the Saturday Night Live skit where it was a millennial girl who goes into her boss's office and she's like, "Um, I need a raise. I need a promotion!" And he's like, "Oh, OK. I'm sorry. How long have you been working here?" And she's like, "I've been working here for three full days! I need a promotion." Incidentally, my millennial accent is the same as if I was doing a Valley Girl accent.
Robert: I was just going to say. That feels an awful lot like the '80s. It's nice to think...
Alison: It's very similar.
Alison: There's a lot of research out there, and the prevailing idea is that millennials are entitled, and narcissistic. [When] they start a job, they expect a promotion immediately. And need constant praise. And all of that.
However, let's go see what Harvard Business Review has to say about this. A group of researchers from George Washington University and the Department of Defense (uh, OK) analyzed more than 20 published and unpublished studies looking at generational differences, mostly in the workplace, and they found that they don't really exist, and that the small differences in the workplace are likely attributed to factors such as the stage of life more than their unique generation.
Robert: In other words, all young people are slightly self-absorbed.
Alison: Slightly? I would maybe take out slightly. But yes, the idea, as Elspeth Reeve wrote in The Atlantic, is not that people born after 1980 are narcissists. It's that young people are narcissists and that they get over themselves as they get older.
Robert: When you read through all this, did you come across any theory for why millennials have this reputation, or is it just that when we were younger (when we Gen Xers were this age) that's what the baby boomers were saying about us. It's what every generation says about the next generation.
Alison: If you think about when we were young Gen Xers (and I am actually right on the cusp of being a millennial Gen Xer), that was the idea of Gen Xers, right? Like we were all self-absorbed, and so moody. Right, Rick? Rick, I feel like you are more smack in the middle of Gen X as opposed to Bro and me.
Rick Engdahl: Maybe it's just me, but I remember being a lot less, um, sure of myself...
Rick: ...as a Gen Xer kid than most millennials I see today. Probably I just work with smarter people than I was then.
Alison: I believe that, too.
Robert: I listen to the Cracked podcast, and they did a series basically asking this question. Are people more narcissistic? I think they basically came to the conclusion that it's true. But one of the reasons why people think it is, is because of things like Facebook, and Instagram, and things that we didn't have when we were younger where it's basically all about, "I'm just going to take a picture of me, and tell everyone what I'm doing every day." It just feels very self-absorbed.
Alison: But it's more accepted. It's totally fine.
Robert: And I can only imagine what kind of goofy stuff I would have put on Facebook when I was a teenager.
Alison: Oh, I'm so glad it wasn't around back then.
Robert: Oh, my gosh. The cheesy stuff I would have said. So embarrassing.
Alison: Ugh! Right.
Rick: I don't think I was very narcissistic, but I'll have to check my diary to be sure.