corporate culture | September 01, 2016

New Videos: Jessica Kriegel Says We’ve Got Millennials All Wrong

Millennials are entitled. They’re lazy, and don’t know how to dress for work. They were born with a silver spoon in one hand and an iPhone in the other. If you haven’t heard these stereotypes yet, you’re either lying or you’ve somehow avoided the swarm of Internet thinkpieces detailing the needs and values of America’s newest (and now, largest) working generation. 

But according to Jessica Kriegel, author of Unfairly Labeled, not only are generalizations about millennials wrong, but they’re hurting our offices—and our economy. We’ve become so enraptured with generational differences, says Kriegel, that we’re missing the bigger picture. Each of us has qualities that set us apart, and each of us wants a more productive, efficient, harmonious workplace. In these frank (and surprisingly funny) keynote videos, Kriegel takes a hammer to millennial stereotypes, reminding us all—Boomer, Gen X, or Gen Y—that labels get us nowhere. 


Not only are the things we use to typify millennials not true across the board, but they may not even be true as generalities. In fact, as Kriegel shows, many of the studies on millennials contradict each other—and many serve the interests of consulting firms looking to sell products and services. “There are 80 million millennials in America today,” she says. “They don’t all want the same thing.” And, as she’s quick to remind us, “The same goes for Baby Boomers” and other generations.

Jessica Kriegel: Think You Know Millennials? Think Again.


Why do we stereotype? In this clip, Kriegel explains how our need to fit things—and people—into boxes stems from our love of patterns and predictability. “Our brain hates ambiguity,” she says, “We create stereotypes based on these generations because it makes the ambiguous predictable.”

Jessica Kriegel: Why Do We Create Generational Stereotypes?


Next, Kriegel explains a model of thinking called the “ladder of inference.” In essence, we take something objective and observable (e.g., a millennial coworker in sweatpants and flip-flops) and generalize until we arrive at an unsubstantiated conclusion (millennials are slobs). When we believe we’re right about things, it validates us. But when the fallout is generational siloing, is thinking we’re right worth it?

Jessica Kriegel: Do All Millennials Act the Same Way?


This last one’s for the marketers. Marketing, Kriegel says, “has always been about selecting a demographic, making a generalization about that demographic, and then selling to them, hoping that they buy your stuff.” And it’s fine to aim a campaign at millennials. Just don’t do it explicitly, or you risk looking reductionist and out of touch.

Jessica Kriegel: Don’t Target Millennials in Marketing Promo


Kriegel, an Organizational Development Consultant at Oracle and a regular contributor to Forbes, is an expert on the millennial generation and its intersection with corporate culture, marketing, and leadership. To book Jessica Kriegel as the speaker at your next conference, workshop, or other event, contact The Lavin Agency, her exclusive keynote speakers bureau.


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