MONEY Millennials

5 Big Myths About What Millennials Truly Want

150119_EM_MillennialMyth
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We've heard a ton about millennials—where they want to live, what they love to eat, what's most important to them in the workplace, and so on. It's time to set the record straight.

In some ways, it’s foolish to make broad generalizations about any generation, each of which numbers into the tens of millions of people. Nonetheless, demographers, marketers, and we in the media can’t help but want to draw conclusions about their motivations and desires. That’s especially true when it comes to the young people who conveniently came of age with the Internet and smartphones, making it possible for their preferences and personal data to be tracked from birth.

Naturally, everyone focuses on what makes each generation different. Sometimes those differences, however slight, come to be viewed as hugely significant breaks from the past when in fact they’re pretty minor. There’s a tendency to oversimplify and paint with an exceptionally broad brush for the sake of catchy headlines and easily digestible info nuggets. (Again, we’re as guilty of this as anyone, admittedly.) The result is that widely accepted truisms are actually myths—or at least only tell part of the story. Upon closer inspection, there’s good reason to call these five generalizations about millennials into question.

1. Millennials Don’t Like Fast Food
One of the most accepted truisms about millennials—easily the most overexamined generation in history—is that they are foodies who love going out to eat. And when they eat, they want it to be special, with fresh, high-quality ingredients that can be mixed and matched according to their whims, not some stale, processed cookie-cutter package served to the masses.

In other words, millennials are huge fans of Chipotle and fast-casual restaurants, while they wouldn’t be caught dead in McDonald’s. In fact, the disdain of millennials for McDonald’s is frequently noted as a prime reason the fast food giant has struggled mightily of late.

But guess what? Even though survey data shows that millennials prefer fast-casual over fast food, and even though some stats indicate millennial visits to fast food establishments are falling, younger consumers are far more likely to dine at McDonald’s than at Chipotle, Panera Bread, and other fast-casual restaurants.

Last summer, a Wall Street Journal article pointed out that millennials are increasingly turning away from McDonald’s in favor of fast casual. Yet a chart in the story shows that roughly 75% of millennials said they go to McDonald’s at least once a month, while only 20% to 25% of millennials visit a fast-casual restaurant of any kind that frequently. Similarly, data collected by Morgan Stanley cited in a recent Business Insider post shows that millennials not only eat at McDonald’s more than at any other restaurant chain, but that they’re just as likely to go to McDonald’s as Gen Xers and more likely to dine there than Boomers.

At the same time, McDonald’s was the restaurant brand that millennials would least likely recommend publicly to others, with Burger King, Taco Bell, KFC, and Jack in the Box also coming in toward the bottom in the spectrum of what millennials find worthy of their endorsements. What it looks like, then, is that millennials are fast food regulars, but they’re ashamed about it.

2. Millennials Want to Live in Cities, Not Suburbs
Another broad generalization about millennials is that they prefer urban settings, where they can walk or take the bus, subway, or Uber virtually anywhere they need to go. There are some facts to back this up. According to an October 2014 White House report, millennials were the most likely group to move into mid-size cities, and the number of young people living in such cities was 5% higher compared with 30 years prior. The apparent preference for cities has been pointed to as a reason why Costco isn’t big with millennials, who seem to not live close enough to the warehouse retailer’s suburban locations to justify a membership, nor do their apartments have space for Costco’s bulk-size merchandise.

But just because the percentage of young people living in cities has been inching up doesn’t mean that the majority actually steer clear of the suburbs. Five Thirty Eight recently took a deep dive into Census data, which shows that in 2014 people in their 20s moving out of cities and into suburbs far outnumber those going in the opposite direction. In the long run, the suburbs seem the overwhelming choice for settling down, with roughly two-thirds of millennial home buyers saying they prefer suburban locations and only 10% wanting to be in the city. It’s true that a smaller percentage of 20-somethings are moving to the suburbs compared with generations ago, but much of the reason why this is so is that millennials are getting married and having children later in life.

3. Millennials Don’t Want to Own Homes
Closely related to the theory that millennials like cities over suburbs is the idea that they like renting rather than owning. That goes not only for where they live, but also what they wear, what they drive, and more.

In terms of homes, the trope that millennials simply aren’t into ownership just isn’t true. Surveys show that the vast majority of millennials do, in fact, want to own homes. It’s just that, at least up until recently, monster student loans, a bad jobs market, the memory of their parents’ home being underwater, and/or their delayed entry into the world of marriage and parenthood have made homeownership less attractive or impossible.

What’s more, circumstances appear to be changing, and many more millennials are actually becoming homeowners. Bloomberg News noted that millennials constituted 32% of home buyers in 2014, up from 28% from 2012, making them the largest demographic in the market. Soaring rents, among other factors, have nudged millennials into seeing ownership as a more sensible option. Surveys show that 5.2 million renters expect to a buy a home this year, up from 4.2 million in 2014. Since young people represent a high portion of renters, we can expect the idea that millennials don’t want to own homes to be increasingly exposed as a myth.

4. Millennials Hate Cars
Cars are just not cool. They’re bad for the environment, they cost too much, and, in an era when Uber is readily available and socializing online is arguably more important than socializing in person, having a car doesn’t seem all that necessary. Certainly not as necessary as a smartphone or broadband. Indeed, the idea that millennials could possibly not care about owning cars is one that has puzzled automakers, especially those in the car-crazed Baby Boom generation.

In many cases, the car industry has disregarded the concept, claiming that the economy rather than consumer interest is why fewer young people were buying cars. Whatever the case, the numbers show that the majority of millennials will own cars, regardless of whether they love them as much as their parents did when they were in their teens and 20s. According to Deloitte’s 2014 Gen Y Consumer Study, more than three-quarters of millennials plan on purchasing or leasing a car over the next five years, and 64% of millennials say they “love” their cars. Sales figures are reflecting the sentiment; in the first half of 2014, millennials outnumbered Gen X for the first time ever in terms of new car purchases.

5. Millennials Have a Different Attitude About Work
As millennials entered the workforce and have become a more common presence in offices around the world, much attention has been focused on the unorthodox things that young people supposedly care more about than their older colleagues. Millennials, surveys and anecdotal evidence have shown, want to be able to wear jeans and have flexible work hours to greater degrees than Gen X and Boomers. Young people also want to be more collaborative, demand more feedback, and are less motivated by money than older generations.

That’s the broad take on what motivates millennial workers anyway. An IBM study on the matter suggests otherwise, however. “We discovered that Millennials want many of the same things their older colleagues do,” researchers state. There may be different preferences on smaller issues—like, say, the importance of being able to dress casually on the job—but when it comes to overarching work goals achieved in the long run, millennials are nearly identical to their more experienced colleagues: “They want financial security and seniority just as much as Gen X and Baby Boomers, and all three generations want to work with a diverse group of people.”

What’s more, IBM researchers say, millennials do indeed care about making more money at work, and that, despite their reputation as frequent “job hoppers,” they jump ship to other companies about as often as other generations, and their motivations are essentially the same: “When Millennials change jobs, they do so for much the same reasons as Gen X and Baby Boomers. More than 40 percent of all respondents say they would change jobs for more money and a more innovative environment.”

MONEY Workplace

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MONEY Love and Money

These Qualities Will Make You Unattractive to Coworkers

woman filing nails with phone off the hook in the office
Anthony Lee—Getty Images

Got a crush on a colleague? Make sure you're not doing these things

More than a few romances get their start at the office.

A new survey by CareerBuilder found that more than a third of workers have dated a colleague, and 30% of office romances led to marriage—which makes sense considering how much time we all spend at work.

But for every happily-ever-after “we met at the office” story, there is plenty of love going unrequited over the watercooler. The poll also revealed some surprising reasons why office crushes fail to get off the ground.

The top quality that makes a coworker undateable: A poor work ethic. Despite Hollywood’s romanticization of the slacker guy, it seems that ambition and hard work are attractive traits—especially to women. Ladies are much less likely to date someone who doesn’t work consistently, with 52% saying they wouldn’t vs. 28% of guys.

(Meanwhile those who put their nose to the grindstone have a better chance at having a hand to hold: 11% of workplace daters say their relationship began during late nights on the job, not far off from the 12% who reported sparks flying over happy hour drinks.)

Another big turnoff: serial dating. One-quarter of those surveyed say they wouldn’t date someone who has already dated someone else at work.

Another 21% say they wouldn’t go out with someone who travels extensively for work.

Surprisingly, a disparity in earnings doesn’t kill romance potential. Just 6% say they wouldn’t date someone who earns less money, though slightly more women surveyed (10%) say it is an issue compared to just 2% of men.

In any case, intra-office dating is tricky business and you want to be careful in how you woo a workplace crush. But at least these findings give you added incentive to work hard—it may pay off for not only your career, but for your love life as well.

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MONEY Workplace

How to Deal When You’re Promoted Above Your Peers

Illustration by Mikey Burton

When a promotion kicks you out of the coffee klatch, you’ll need to keep your former peers from becoming your future critics.

Right after you celebrate that well-earned promotion, reality hits: You’re now the boss of people who had been your peers. “When you become a supervisor, the relationship structurally changes, whether you like it or not,” says Good Boss, Bad Boss author Robert Sutton, a Stanford University professor who studies organizational behavior.

Going forward, your work will be judged on your ability to lead people with whom you used to consort and complain. If that’s not enough pressure, you’re now at risk of being the one complained about. Make the transition seamless with these steps.

Meet One-on-One

Sit down with each person to discuss the change in leadership. “You’re in learning mode,” says Linda Hill, a Harvard Business School professor and co-author of Being the Boss. Ask staffers to share their short- and long-term goals, skills they’re building, and obstacles that get in the way of doing their jobs. You’ll convey respect and gain valuable info that can help you achieve buy-in.

Also, if you were promoted over a colleague, “address the elephant in the room” and alleviate worries about your ability to work well together, advises Atlanta social media strategist and job coach Miriam Salpeter.

Step Back Socially

You can be a great manager and preserve friendships by slightly altering your behaviors. Continue attending happy hour, for example, but stay for only one drink, suggests Hill. Allow your staff space to vent. “We all need to blow off steam sometimes,” says Katy Tynan, author of Survive Your Promotion! (Just make it clear to your people that if something is really bugging them, they can talk to you, she adds.)

Also, disconnect from your subordinates on all non-work-related social media. “Many times you’re doing people a favor, since it puts less pressure on what they can and can’t share on their profiles,” says Salpeter. Do let employees know before unfriending them, though, so that they don’t take it personally.

Prove You Don’t Play Favorites

Prepare to make—and to justify—difficult decisions, particularly regarding raises and promotions. To be seen as objective, try to grade everyone using the same metrics, and be sure people know what those metrics are, says Keith Murnighan, a professor at the Kellogg School of Management at Northwestern University.

To show humility, solicit feedback from subordinates on your own performance, says Gentz Franz, a University of Illinois lecturer who studies job succession. “It’s incumbent upon managers,” he says, “to open the lines of communication if they want to create a collaborative work environment.”

MONEY office etiquette

The Career Mistake You Don’t Realize You’re Making

talking too much at work
Anthia Cumming/iStock

Your colleagues and bosses might think of you as the office chatterbox.

When you’ve got the floor in a meeting, do you notice people looking at the clock or their phones?

When you’re chatting over the water cooler, do you find yourself chiming in before your colleagues finish their sentences?

Do you typically go off on tangents when you tell a story?

Do people nod blankly and say “uh huh” a lot when you’re speaking?

Do you notice that people at work prefer to communicate with you via email?

You may be an overtalker.

Most people who talk too much don’t realize they do it, says Annie Stevens, managing partner for ClearRock, a leadership development and executive coaching firm. No matter whether it’s fueled by insecurity or overconfidence, however, this quality can be deadly to one’s career—especially these days.

How Talking Too Much Can Hurt You

With 67% of people working “a great deal more” than they did five years ago, according to a survey by staffing firm Manpower, workers literally have less patience for distractions. “No one has time to sit down for an hour to get an answer to a question,” says Stevens. Your peers and supervisors may start avoiding you if you are sucking up a lot of their time.

Accurate, real-time salaries for thousands of careers.

Additionally, if you can’t get to the point in a meeting, your boss may wonder about your ability to communicate with higher ups or clients. Prattling on in an interview could obscure the points that you’re trying to make, and hamper your chances at getting the job.

Women seem to pay a bigger price for being loquacious. A Yale University study found that high-level women who talk more at work are perceived as less competent than men. According to lead researcher Victoria Brescoll, people tend to want to reward males who are garrulous by either by hiring them or giving them more responsibility, while females who talk a lot are seen as domineering and presumptuous.

For any worker, though, the ability to share information clearly and succinctly is an asset, says Stevens. In a world where big ideas can be conveyed in under 140 characters, there’s less tolerance for a verbal opus.

Stevens’s motto: “Be brief, be brilliant, be gone.”

Keep from Being Seen as a Blabbermouth

Become self aware. Watch for those red flags mentioned above. The surest sign of them that you’re talking too much is that you talk over someone who is speaking. “It can be a fatal error if it happens during a job interview, a career killer if done often with your boss, and will alienate co-workers if you’re repeatedly interrupting and hijacking the conversation,” said Stevens.

Strive to pay attention—at least for a few days—to other people’s reactions when you’re talking. Do your colleagues, for example, join in the digression when you veer off topic? You’re probably in the clear.

Pay attention to body language, too. You are likely losing your listener if he or she glances at a clock or a computer, stops making eye contact or is no longer taking notes. “Wrap up as soon as you can,” says Stevens.

Have a script. There are times when you do need to talk about yourself. Develop and memorize a 90-second verbal response so you are prepared with a summary when interviewers or networking contacts say, “Tell me about yourself.”

Similarly, if you’re giving a speech or presentation, outline a few key points before the meeting and stick to them. Watch for those cues noted above as signs you should get back on track.

Details are important in storytelling, but make sure you’re pared down to the essentials. “The annoying companion of over-talking is over-telling, as in disclosing too many, too personal, irrelevant and or inappropriate details,” says Stevens.

Practice active listening. Don’t just be lying in conversational wait for your turn to talk. Pay close attention to what is being discussed and ask relevant follow up questions.

Showing your listening skills can be just as important as showing how much you can talk, says Stevens. “If the person you are speaking with believes that you’re interested in what they’re saying, he or she will think positively about you.”

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MONEY Workplace

Why America Should Follow Japan’s Lead on Forcing Workers to Take Vacation

Japanese woman on beach
Getty Images/Flickr

Japan has plans to legally require its workforce to take a break. If only the U.S. would be so kind.

A law forcing you to take vacation days? Sounds like a bureaucratic gift, but in Japan, it’s meant as a workaholic intervention.

Legislation will be submitted in the country’s current session of parliament that will make it the legal responsibility of employers to ensure that workers use their holiday time. Japan has been studying such legislation since 2012, when a consensus concluded that the health, social, and productivity costs of Japan’s extreme work ethic were too high.

While it may seem crazy to Americans to require a person to take a vacation, we suffer from more than a touch of workaholism in this country.

In Japan, 22% of workers toil for more than 49 hours a week; in the U.S., it’s 16%. But in France and Germany, only 11% of the population puts in that many hours, according to data compiled by the Japanese government.

And when it comes to unused vacation days, we are second only to Japan among developed nations. The average Japanese worker used only 7 of the 18 vacation days allotted each year, or 39% of their annual paid leave, a survey by Expedia Japan found. According to a study by Oxford Economics, U.S. workers who had paid time off typically left 3 vacation days on the table. And if you look just at the 41% of U.S. workers who said they did not plan on taking all their vacation, the average number of unused days jumps to 8.

We’re also similar to Japan in another way: the percentage of workers who don’t take any vacation at all. A whopping 17% of the Japanese workforce does not take a single day of paid vacation, compared with 13% of Americans. Both of those figures are startlingly high in light of the fact that there wasn’t a single Australian in the Expedia Japan survey who didn’t take off at least one day in the past year.

Trending in the Wrong Direction?

While Japan is working on decreasing unused days, America seems to be heading the other way. Use of vacation days are at their lowest point in the past four decades, the Oxford Economics study found.

Fears of keeping your job, being passed over for promotions or lead projects, coming back to a staggering pile of work, or feeling like you’re the only one who can do your job all push Americans to stay at the office—or, when they do actually take a holiday, to do some work remotely. Employment website Glassdoor found that 61% of us have logged on while we were supposed to be logged off.

This shift can hurt us big time when you consider that employees who use more vacation days end up with better performance reviews, according to internal research by audit firm EY. Increased vacation time has also been linked to increased worker productivity, other research has shown.

Japan has another key piece of legislation that the U.S. lacks: It guarantees workers 10 paid days off a year.

Unlike most other countries with advanced economies, “the United States is the only advanced economy that does not guarantee its workers any paid vacation time and is one of only a few rich countries that does not require employers to offer at least some paid holidays,” noted a report by the Center for Economic and Policy Research, a Washington think tank. Nearly a quarter of Americans receive no paid days off at all.

Considering that workers in the European Union enjoy—and use—a minimum of 20 paid vacation days and as many as 13 paid national holidays, it seems Japan isn’t the only country that could use a little legal help taking a break.

Read next: How to Disconnect From Work (Without Getting on the Boss’s Bad Side)

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