Hipsters, Martyrs, and More: The Millennials You'll Meet at Work

You may or may not know this, but BridgeWorks is in the business of sociology. We examine broad patterns and trends that differentiate generational segments in the workplace (and marketplace). Since we’re studying generations all-day e’ry day, it might not be surprising that sometimes we find patterns within patterns… a Russian doll of sociology, if you will.

Now get ready for a shock factor of zero: we’ve found that all Millennials aren’t homogenous.
In the past decade of intensive Millennial research, we’ve seen five pretty distinct Millennial personas pop up again and again. If the Millennial you work with just doesn’t seem to fit the more “generic” description, then you might have one of these Millennial types on your hands or be one yourself.

#1 - I’m-Not-a-Millennial Millennial (aKa the Deniers)

This is probably the most common Millennial persona you work with. Sadly, like most of their generation, they hate the title “Millennial” and murmur things like: “I’m not THAT Millennial. Don’t stereotype me!” These I’m-not-a-Millennial Millennials assume that being called a “Millennial” is the same thing as being called a bad employee. They try to shed any association with their generation and may try to overcompensate and push back against common Millennial traits. Their Achilles’ heel? Working with other Millennials. Most of these folks exhibit the following behaviors:

  • Incredibly hardworking—taking pride in their devotion to the organization.
  • Allergic to anything that makes them seem like “entitled Millennials.”
  • Prone to side with Xers and Boomers, while still exhibiting common Millennial traits like prioritizing flexibility and work-life integration.

#2 - The Needy Millennial

These Millennials are those that are so invested in their work that their behaviors can come across as annoying, when really their main motivation is to be outstanding at their jobs. They prefer numerous check-ins on projects, ask what can sometimes feel like an overwhelming number of questions, and believe that seeking consistent input and feedback is what leads to successful work. Here’s the thing: they may just be the hardest workers in your office if you can manage them effectively. The Needy Millennials are usually:

  • Highly ambitious and engaged in their work.
  • Most comfortable in open, collaborative environments with easy access to leadership.
  • The most democratic in their leadership style because they’re so accustomed to seeking advice and input.

#3 - The Hidden Millennial

There's this perception that all Millennials are techie, tattooed hipsters that live in the cities and devote themselves to nabbing that coveted Google job. While this type of Millennial does exist (see #4), they’re probably not a great fit for many of the more traditional organizations out there. Enter the hidden Millennial. We call them “hidden” not because they wear camo or hide in random places (that’d be weird), but because they’re not given much coverage by the media. They hew to more traditional workplace norms, don’t have perfectly curated social media accounts, and are happy living in the suburbs with their growing families. These hidden Millennials:

  • Aim to stay with companies for the long-haul.
  • Prefer more hierarchical environments, with clear lines of communication and responsibility.
  • Can be a great fit for the more structured, blue collar jobs.

#4 - The Hipster Millennial

The media has a near-obsession with this type of Millennial. If you Google image search “Millennial,” you’ll see what we mean. They have more than one visible tattoo, proudly proclaim their life choices like “shop local” or “vegan since ’03,” and tend to have niche interests. These hipster Millennials cluster in urban cores, ride bicycles around the city, are delaying settling down, and probably have incredible and artistic Instagram accounts. They embrace most of the classically Millennial preferences in the workplace, preferring schedules built around their personal lives, blurring the lines between personal and business attire, and look to disrupt and move up the ladder at an ever-quickening pace. Some hipster Millennial workplace behaviors include:

  • Seeking unique ways of approaching work, often finding opportunities to disrupt the status quo.
  • Preferring to dress down when others might lean towards dressing up, always leading with authenticity.
  • Being open and honest about ideas and very willing to share them, with a tendency to be contagiously passionate.

#5 - The Martyr Millennial

You know that Millennial in the office who proudly broadcasts how hard she works and how terribly busy she is? The one who always brings her laptop home, looks down her nose at people who leave promptly at 5:00pm, and thinks that accruing vacation hours (never to be used) is a badge of honor? She’s trying to put herself ahead of the pack, prove her incredible work ethic, and earn respect. In actuality, her colleagues may be concerned that she’s going to get sick from overwork… again. They’re frustrated because she makes them feel guilty about their perfectly respectable work hours. Millennial martyrs are diligent workers—dedicated to going above and beyond. They may need some reigning in, but they often bring raw talent and grit that can be a huge asset. The Millennial Martyr is:

  • Competitive and driven by passion to succeed and prove their worth.
  • A team player who will sacrifice personal time to devote more hours to a project with a tight deadline.
  • Always work at 101% of their capacity, leaving themselves at a high likelihood of burnout if not checked.

#6 - What Else?

Is there a common Millennial persona we missed? Shoot us a line to let us know!

If you found this blog especially interesting and want to know more about what you can do to manage these different personas, you can get the full 411 in Chapter 12 of our latest book Managing Millennials For Dummies®.