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Perceptions of the Peter Pan Generation in the Workplace

Marketers, economists and researchers have spent a great deal of time dissecting the Millennial generation as its ranks build in numbers and influence. Yet most views seem to center on the not-so-rosy traits of our generation, painting us as entitled, narcissistic atheists with a “Peter Pan complex” who are a thorn in the side of businesses looking to recruit younger workers.

So when I read Chris Erskine’s opinion piece on the topic in the Los Angeles Times last month, my ego (and hope) was restored.

Erskine admits that while “trophy inflation” and neediness is ripe among this group, we also exhibit strengths such as adaptability, technological savviness, idealism, global perspective and acceptance of diversity – all traits that will serve us well in the workforce and as we take leadership roles.

What struck me the most about the traits shared in the article was the optimism among Millennials. I was encouraged that a group who experienced the worst economic downturn since the Great Depression – as many of us were just entering the workforce – actually have a more optimistic view on the economy than Baby Boomers and Generation X.

I think it speaks to our resilience and hunger to achieve. Again, not bad qualities to have in employees.

So, instead of writing us off as affirmation-hungry hipsters, I encourage you to see our strengths – acceptance, flexibility and passion – and focus on the new perspective we can bring to the workforce. As Erskine concluded, “As this generation reaps the rewards of their own hard work, they will fully blossom only with our continued mentoring and cheering. Because they have almost everything except our wisdom and unconditional faith.”

What is your experience with Millennials in the workforce? Are the stereotypes true? Share your thoughts on this unique generation’s habits, characteristics and strengths.

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