It hasn’t been easy for Millennials. They’ve been labeled as selfish, self-absorbed, apathetic, and over-indulged. An article in the Daily Mail described them as being “unable to deal with the real world.” The Atlantic simply classified them as economically unlucky, while Moneyish gets down to specifics, claiming that Millennials are so stressed out that some of them are going bald at an alarming rate. I’ve also read articles on Millennials that describe them as “over-educated idiots,” “a menagerie of morons,” and “the worst generation.” There are even courses online to help companies manage Millennials, as though they are a new, wild species that has been tentatively introduced into the ecosystem.
I should probably point out that I myself straddle Generation X and Y. I’m right at the cutoff point. For the fun of it, I took BuzzFeed’s “Which Generation Do You Actually Belong In” quiz and was classified as “in between Gen X and Gen Y.” USA Today’s quiz said I’m 44% Gen X, while Pew Research said that my “Millennial Score” is 91. So no one can give me a straight answer. Let’s just say I share characteristics of both.
Last night, after watching another “fake news” debate, I thought it might be interesting to check out stats from our Integrity & Work Ethics Test to determine which generation is the most honest. More specifically, which generation possesses traits that are associated with integrity. Analyzing data collected from nearly 1,000 participants, our stats reveal that Millennials scored lower than Baby Boomers and Generation X on the following honesty related traits: (Note: Scores range on a scale from 0 to 100)
Conscientious people are productive and responsible. This particular trait is frequently associated with professional success, job satisfaction, and workplace integrity.
- Score for Millennials: 74
- Score for Generation X: 79
- Score for Baby Boomers: 80
Remorsefulness reflects the degree to which a person feels bad for committing a transgression, like lying, rule-breaking, theft, or other unscrupulous behaviors. Theoretically, the more regret a person feels, the lower his or her likelihood of committing the same transgression in the future.
- Score for Millennials: 78
- Score for Generation X: 85
- Score for Baby Boomers: 86
It’s one thing to have morals and principles – standing by them is where the challenge really lies. Individuals who possess value integrity will stand by their code of ethics, even if they are pressured to do otherwise.
- Score for Millennials: 80
- Score for Generation X: 89
- Score for Baby Boomers: 90
A person who is trustworthy can be relied on to keep his or her word. Even in situations where they could easily get away with a misdeed (e.g. because they are not being supervised) trustworthy individuals are almost always able to resist the temptation to act dishonestly.
- Score for Millennials: 74
- Score for Generation X: 80
- Score for Baby Boomers: 81
While it’s easy to take responsibility for our successes, we must also be willing to accept responsibility for our errors and failures. Accountable individuals are willing to admit mistakes and answer for their actions.
- Score for Millennials: 79
- Score for Generation X: 84
- Score for Baby Boomers: 85
Organizational Commitment & Loyalty
While sticking to the same job until retirement is less common these days, most companies still consider loyalty a valuable trait. Job-hopping is a major employer pet peeve, as hiring and training a new recruit is costly. Employees who are loyal are dedicated to the company’s success and committed to doing their job well.
- Score for Millennials: 71
- Score for Generation X: 72
- Score for Baby Boomers: 77
Discretion is particularly important in jobs in which staff members have access to sensitive information. A breach of confidentiality could result in serious legal consequences.
- Score for Millennials: 66
- Score for Generation X: 77
- Score for Baby Boomers: 74
Empathy isn’t just for the greater good of humanity. On a business level, it allows companies to better understand the needs of their customers and breeds a more collaborative work environment.
- Score for Millennials: 70
- Score for Generation X: 77
- Score for Baby Boomers: 72
So it may look like Millennials are dishonest, but it’s important to keep in mind that while the differences in scores among Millennials and the other two generations were statistically significant, they were not glaringly large. Some people might look upon these study results as proof that Millennials are deleterious troublemakers. And that would be my cue to pull out my soapbox…which, by the way, is so 19th century – so I guess I’m not that Millennial after all. But I digress. Here’s why I think Millennials’ leniency when it comes to dishonesty might actually be a product of the times:
Progressive Millennials of today are behaving much like progressive Baby Boomers did in the 60’s and 70’s. Baby Boomers helped birth the feminist movement, which sought to break down barriers and dismantle laws that discriminated against women. The streets were rife with student activists fighting for equality between the sexes, and for all cultures and sexual orientations. Essentially, they behaved in ways that would be considered rebellious and unlawful. So how is that any different from Millennial activists who march to call attention to climate change, who protested after the US elections, and who have harnessed the power of social media to get word out about causes they believe in? Bottom line: Just like previous generations, Millennials are generally honest and have good values, but they recognize that some rules can and should be broken if it’s for the greater good.
“Breaking rules isn’t bad when what you’re doing is more important than the rule itself.”