Why We Must Challenge Generational Stereotypes

Prior to 1970, California labor laws prevented women from working more than eight hours a day or 40 hours a week. Why? There was a faulty assumption on the part of lawmakers that the “weaker sex” needed protection from the rigors of overtime work. 

An assumption is a belief based on little or no evidence. Assumptions lead to stereotypes. This stereotype about women was so generally accepted, it took years of feminist consciousness-raising to overcome.

Though of lesser social impact, perhaps, the same thinking is today falsely categorizing a different group of workers. This time, false assumptions are stereotyping generations, most egregiously, the Millennial generation.

Why you should ditch generational stereotypes

Diversity in the workplace has been proven time and again to be a good thing, and countless publications these days devote digital and real ink to how a new generation of workers, the Millennials, are shaking things up at the office—for better or for worse. But assuming that a particular generation will bring certain strengths and weaknesses to the work environment is falling into a dangerous trap, says Jessica Kriegel, whose book Unfairly Labeled: How Your Workplace Can Benefit from Ditching Generational Stereotypes was published earlier this year.

Wichita Business Journal features Unfairly Labeled

In her new book Unfairly Labeled: How Your Workplace Can Benefit From Ditching Generational Stereotypes, organizational developer Jessica Kriegelargues that the generational labels we toss around are loaded with implicit stereotypes, and these stereotypes are divisive and unfair.

While this applies to all generations, it’s most pervasive for the 80 million 

Read Jessica's interview with Knowledge@Wharton

‘Y’ Generational Stereotypes Are Bad for Business

Generation Y, aka the millennials, now make up the largest cohort in the workforce, and the people hiring them — and marketing to them — have plenty of preconceived notions about them. But no generation is a monolithic block, and trying to fit all of them into the same pigeonhole does everyone an expensive and often demoralizing disservice, whether it is “cynical” Gen Xers or “tech-averse” members of the Silent Generation.

Jessica Kriegel works at Oracle as an organization and talent development consultant, and her new book dissecting this issue is Unfairly Labeled: How Your Workplace Can Benefit from Ditching Generational Stereotypes. She recently appeared on the Knowledge@Wharton Show on Sirius XM channel 111 to talk about why it’s so important for businesses and managers to avoid stereotypes. 

Read John Helmer's take on hearing Jessica speak

As a proud Gen Xer who is – by definition – independent, resilient and adaptable, it pains me to say this, but I have been duped.  And you know what?  So have you.

At the MBA CSEA Regional Forum in San Francisco last Friday Dr. Jessica Kriegel shredded to pieces much of the research that has been done on Millennials and made me question all of the “truths” I have come to accept about Millennials, Gen Xers, Baby Boomers, and every generation before and since.  Incidentally, she did so just before I was to moderate a panel discussion about recruiting and retaining Millennials, so I had to rely heavily on the “adaptable” attribute I had [incorrectly] assigned to my generation.

Jessica's latest article featured in "The CEO Magazine"

Generational labelling is meaningless and counter-productive in the workplace. Not only does such labelling create unfair biases and lead to inappropriate reactions, but in fact, there is no clear evidence to support the messages that the stereotypes convey.

Yet CEOs, managers and supervisors consistently use these stereotypes to make decisions, presuming to understand the collective tastes, ambitions, values and work habits of millions of people born in the same 20-year time span.  The result is miscommunication among team members and lower productivity.

Listen to Jessica on the Tommy Schnurmacher Show discussing Unfairly Labeled

GUEST: Author and top talent management pro Jessica Kriegel talks about the problem with terms like “boomer” and “millennial” in her new book “Unfairly Labeled: How Your Workplace Can Benefit From Ditching Generational Stereotypes”.

Beth Ruyak interviewing Jessica on Capital Public Radio

People born between 1980 and 2000 are Millennials; those born 1964 to 1979 are considered Gen X’ers and Baby Boomers Those are people born 1945 to 1963. But put them all together in the workplace and there can be issues. Are they real though? Or just based on assumptions?

Jessica Kriegel is a Millenial; she is a consultant for Oracle with a doctorate in Education. She’s a regular contributor to Forbes.com and the author of a new book titled: Unfairly Labeled, How Your Workplace Can Benefit From Ditching Generational Stereotypes. 

Healthcare Business Today features Kriegel's 5 Steps to Dropping Generational Stereotypes

We make generational assumptions at work without realizing it. But what if our assumptions were racially or ethnically driven? Replace the word ‘millennial’ with Hispanic: “Millennials are entitled, lazy, innovative, want to save the world…”

After reading the above, clearly it’s no longer a question ofwhy organizations need to eliminate stereotypes, but how.


Sacramento Lifestyle Publications features Jessica's book launch event

Recently local author Jessica Kriegel, Ed.D. held a launch party for her new book, Unfairly Labeled: How Your Workplace Can Benefit From Ditching Generational Stereotypes, in downtown Sacramento. The event featured music, bites and libations, and signed books were available for purchase with proceeds benefiting the Sacramento Philharmonic Opera.

Jessica Kriegel featured in Momentology on Marketing: Why Generations is a Weak Segmenting Strategy

Maybe you’ve heard that Baby Boomers are the generation with the strongest work ethic, missing the fewest workdays, putting in the longest hours and taking only rare vacations? You may think that Millennials are fun-loving and combine work with play, seamlessly integrating an afternoon surfing with client conference calls. Millennials are natural technology wizards, are constantly online, addicted to gadgets and apps of all types because they are “digital natives”, right?

These assumptions about different generations were just beginning to flood the internet and board room conversations in 2010, the same year I began a doctoral program at Drexel University with the intention of building a career as a “millennial expert”.

Read an interview with Jessica featured in Inc.

The AARP continues to assert  that older workers are, in fact, more valuable than their younger counterparts. However, evidence suggests that young employees are an important ingredient in the creation and growth of firms, in part because of their willingness to take risks and innovate. Yet, Millenials --people born between 1995 and 2005 -- often get a bad rap in the workplace.

Dr. Jessica Kriegel, organizational development consultant and author of Unfairly Labeled: How Your Workplace Can Benefit From Ditching Generational Stereotypes(Wiley, 2016), has been on a campaign to end the generational stereotyping of young people. Kriegel argues that not only does such labeling create unfair biases; in fact, there is no clear evidence to support the messages that the current stereotypesconvey. The following is an excerpt of our interview:

Two milllennial myths according to Jessica Kriegel, featured in Inc.

Do you see Millennials as "digital natives," comfortable with technology, short on loyalty to their employers, devoted to their favorite causes, and enamored of ping-pong? If so, you're wrong. You may be doing them a disservice, and yourself as well, because you can't effectively manage people you don't understand.

That advice comes from Jessica Kriegel, author of Unfairly Labeled: How Your Workplace Can Benefit from Ditching Generational Stereotypes. She's also a Millennial herself. As Kriegel points out, believing that Millennials are job-hoppers and that Baby Boomers can't work a  smartphone is not all that different from believing that Jewish people are good with money and that women can't handle math.

Read a debate on Jessica Kriegel's research in Fast Company

When Jessica Kriegel set out to write her doctoral dissertation on the unique attributes of the millennial generation, she discovered one major problem: There weren’t any.

"As I was reading all of the different books, research articles, and peer-reviewed studies on generational difference, I started to realize how much contradiction there is in the literature," says Kriegel, who earned a PhD in educational leadership with a specialization in human resources management from Drexel University in 2013. "I realized it's all kind of made up. There's not a lot of hard data that supports any of these assumptions. It's all anecdotal, case studies, research studies with 200 people that they apply to the broader population, and it's really damaging."

Part Two: Interview with Jessica Kriegel on IT Business Edge: Millennials May Not Be More Tech-Savvy Than You

Last week, I wrote about Jessica Kriegel, senior organization development consultant at Oracle, who argues that generational stereotypes, like the widespread notions we’ve all read about millennials as entitled, tech-savvy, structure-averse job-hoppers, are harmful to workplace fairness and productivity. In my interview with Kriegel, I also drilled down on the issue of stereotyping as it pertains to IT professionals, which warrants further discussion here.

I found Kriegel, a millennial herself, to be persuasive in her argument, which she makes in her new book, “Unfairly Labeled: How Your Workplace Can Benefit from Ditching Generational Stereotypes.” I also found her to be refreshingly candid. She didn’t miss a beat, for example, in responding to my question about what sorts of generational stereotyping she has found to be most common within Oracle:

Jessica's op-ed in the Sacramento Business Journal on generational stereotypes

Prior to 1970, California labor laws prevented women from working more than eight hours a day or 40 hours a week. This meant they were denied higher paychecks and positions requiring extra work.

Why? A faulty assumption that the “weaker sex” needs protection from the rigors of overtime. The law also assumed women were needed at home to nurture their hard-working husbands. Workforce productivity and corporate profitability suffered as a result of these assumptions.