The Biggest Mistake HR Professionals Make about Millennials

Imagine being a HR professional in a corporation, and you hear the following comments from some of your executives:

  • “Well, isn’t Connie Asian? Maybe she can understand what these stats mean.”
  • “Of course he’s nice. He’s from Canada.”
  • “Don’t bother showing Jack that app. He’s old school and doesn’t get technology. Besides, he’s about to retire.”
  • Janet gets emotional when she disagrees with the men on the team. Why can’t she be more like them?”
  • “Like most men, our CEO is thickheaded when he believes that he knows the solution.”

From a HR perspective, such comments are stereotypes of race, age, gender, and nationality. To protect their organizations, HR professionals try to prevent such talk in the workplace, raise awareness about why stereotype talk is harmful, and even discipline employees when such talk becomes pervasive.

EEO Laws

Moreover, many HR policies align with Equal Employment Opportunity (EEO) laws to prevent employees from stereotyping. Here are a few examples (but in no order):

  • The Age Discrimination in Employment Act (ADEA)
  • The Pregnancy Discrimination Act (PDA)
  • Equal Pay Act (EPA)
  • The Americans with Disabilities Act (ADA)
  • The Civil Rights Act of 1964 (Title VII)
  • Lilly Ledbetter Fair Pay Act

The Biggest HR Professional Mistake?

Here’s my question:

With the importance placed on preventing and mitigating stereotyping, why do several HR professionals not only allow but encourage the stereotyping of Millennials?

As a member of some HR associations and organizations, I often see blogs, whitepapers, and webinars that stereotype Millennials in the workforce. Even Simon Sinek does this (to see his video and a critique, check out Jared Buckley’s blog, Why Simon Sinek’s Video on Millennials Was Wrong in the Huffpost).

As part of my job, I research leadership publications in various media to help organizations benefit from the trends and innovations. While researching for an upcoming book on leadership training, I was surprised to discover a call for customized leadership training for Millennials.

While I agree that HR professionals need to be aware of workforce trends as well as changes in the evolution of technology and even leadership beliefs, stereotyping how Millennials think and behave isn’t an appropriate way to do this. Doing so isn’t fair for individuals who happen to have been born during the Millennial period…

…or maybe I’m wrong. I’m here to learn, so help me do so. What do you think?

Published by

Gary A. DePaul, PhD, CPT

"I help organizations become more effective at leadership development." Gary A. DePaul is an expert on how leadership is radically changing. He has two decades of experience as a practitioner and scholar of leadership, has worked as a manager in fortune 500 companies, and consults with organizations to improve leadership practices. He completed his Ph.D. and Ed.M. from the University of Illinois at Urbana-Champaign (UIUC) and a bachelor's degree at the University of Alabama at Birmingham (UAB). ISPI has designated him as a Certified Performance Technologist (CPT).