I was recently reading a Psychology Today article, The Beat (Up) Generation, by Abby Ellin in which she explores the ways in which Generation Y (i.e. Millennials, those born between 1982-2004), one of the most vilified generations of all time, may also be the most misunderstood.

An interesting contributing factor that she sets forth is that given longer lifespans, higher retirement age, and the economic recession requiring workers to remain in the work force longer, for the first time members of three generations (Generation Y, Generation X, and the Baby Boomers) are all in the work force at the same time. Just think about the cultural changes that have occurred within the last 70 years. It makes sense that conflict would arise.

I want to recap how the author outlined some common traits of Millennials and the differences between how they view themselves and how others view them. I encourage you to read the article for some great examples and more detail.

“Constant Need For Feedback:” Others view this as needy, attention-seeking, and demonstrating a lack of confidence. Millennials view this as being eager to please and seeking guidance and mentorship.

“Overly Connected To Their Parents:” Others view this as coddled and a lack independence. Millennials view this as being family-oriented and focusing on community rather than being self-oriented.

“Crave Immediate Gratification:” Others view this as entitled and disrespectful. Millennials view this as being data-driven and focusing on concrete facts in a world where answers are just a Google search away.

“Self-Promotional:” Others view this as self-centered and lacking in empathy. Millennials view this as self-marketing and developing their brand to stand out from their competition in all the noise of social media.

“Not Interested In Working Standard Hours From 9-5:” Others view this as having a short attention span and lacking motivation and drive. Millennials view this as being flexible, accommodating, and willing to work 24/7 particularly when work can be done from a computer in Starbucks.

Fascinating that when viewed from a certain lens, Millennials can be viewed as eager to please, family-oriented, technologically savvy, and flexible. These are great examples of how our perceptions impact our thoughts and feelings. Maybe Millennials do have a lot to offer in the workplace, just not in the way that the Baby Boomers would like. Maybe it is the workplace that needs to change and not the Millennials. After all, Google’s “Take Your Parents To Work Day” has been a big success. What are your thoughts about this shift in perspective?