Fake News or Pure BS? Why You Should Be Skeptical of Generation-Bashing Surveys

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WHY ARE SO MANY people today so into generation bashing?

For years, I’ve heard people gripe about the shortcomings of the Millennial generation, as if Gen X and the Baby Boomers (of which I am one) are somehow perfect and didn’t have their own challenges.

I’ve written this before, but I’m sick and tired of the non-stop drumbeat that Millennials are somehow the scourge of the modern workplace. I know that may seem like a bit of hyperbole, but not by much.

If we took the time spent bashing young employees and used it to focus on how the better engage them in the modern workforce, I think we’d all be a lot better off.

Bashing generations for their differences is nonsense

I wrote this back when I was Editor at TLNT, but you may have missed it so here it is again:

“In my personal experience with the Millennial generation — I hate the nonsensical and meaningless Generation Y tag that some use to describe them — I have found that there is no one way to characterize or manage them. The three Millennials that I am closely related to are as different as any three people you would find on a street corner. And the classroom of Millennials that I teach writing to each semester at a local university follows this same pattern…

The notion that the Millennial generation is so unique and different from generations before them is nonsense. They are different, yes, but so is every other generation…”

Wonder why I’m getting into this again? It’s because the public bashing now seems to be moving from Millennials to another generation — Gen Z, those born between the mid-1990s and mid-2000s.

What got me going was this post on HR Dive, a website that takes content and articles from other media and then re-writes (some might say pilfers or plagiarizes) them into the HR Dive style. The headline they put on the story says it all — Managers fear Gen Z will be harder to manage than other generations.

How can today’s managers possibly analyze Gen Z?

Really? They already know how Gen Z will act on the job? As a journalist and all-around skeptical guy, I find that hard to believe.

Here’s how HR Dive summarized it:

“A new survey from APPrise Mobile, a mobile employee communications solution, reveals that a third of managers believe Gen Z will be more difficult to manage than older generations. Gen Z, born between the mid-1990s and the mid-2000s, is the latest generation to enter the workforce.”

When I read that, the first thing to come to mind was this — how the hell can managers of today possibly know that people who were born no earlier than around 1994-95 (or later) are going to be difficult to manage on the job? These young people are no older than their early 20s, and many are much younger than that.

Even Nostradamus wasn’t that good with predictions.

The HR Dive story then added this:

“The survey results showed that 26 percent of respondents think communicating with Gen Z will be difficult compared to older generations; 29 percent of respondents expect to have problems training them; and 16 percent also think Gen Z will negatively affect their company culture. Survey respondents said they have no plans to cater to Gen Z.”

Again, how could the respondents — managers of today — know this about the workers of tomorrow?

Any further questions you might have about any of this won’t be answered by HR Dive, because their style is to parrot what they have found elsewhere without much questioning about it at all. As a longtime editor who has dealt with a great many journalists and stories both good and bad, this story is as thin, poorly reported, and unfair to Gen Z as it gets.

Yes, this IS a BS survey and what I would call “fake news”

I tried to track down the APPrise Mobile survey, or at least a press release about it, but it’s nowhere to be found on the APPrise Mobile website. This is curious, especially for research like this, which you would expect an organization that commissioned it to be touting to the heavens.

What I did find on the APPrise Mobile website was a section called APPrise Mobile In the News that links to a story about the Gen Z survey on HR Daily Advisor, but that story seems to be the source of the HR Dive story because it has the same information but no more depth to any of it — or any link to the original survey or a press release about the survey.

This is a long way of saying what you probably already know: The HR Dive/HR Daily Advisor stories on this “survey” by APPrise Mobile, about the predicted working habits of Gen Z, are nothing but pure BS. Or, as someone we hear on the news all the time might say, it’s simply “fake news.”

Yes, there IS fake news out there, and this seems to be it.

I generally won’t write about surveys unless I also get the boilerplate about how the survey was done. You know — who the pollsters talked to, when they talked to them, the margin of error, and other dull but important stuff like that.

Reputable surveys have data like that; BS surveys don’t.

If there’s a real survey on this topic out there, I want to see it

Perhaps there is a legitimate survey on Gen Z that APPrise Mobile did out there somewhere, but if there is, I can’t for the life of me understand why they aren’t touting it on their website. If I were the CEO of APPrise Mobile and knew my organization had research like that, I’d be touting it six ways to Sunday.

However, the lack of any real media outside HR Dive and HR Daily Advisor writing about it, the sketchiness of the information, and the lack of any real details tells me that yes, this so-called “survey” regarding attitudes about Gen Z from today’s managers is total bullshit, pure and simple.

That’s MY professional opinion until somebody can prove to me otherwise.

HR Dive and HR Daily Advisor should be ashamed of themselves for publishing this drivel, giving undue credence to a BS survey, and continuing to foster the single worst quality of the media — pitting people against each other.

That’s what the drumbeat about the shortcomings of Millennials is all about. Now, some in the media are moving the target to a new generation that they can demean and disparage. It’s simply stupid and plain wrong.

Some REAL advice on generations in the workforce

Want to read some real wisdom and insight about the generations in today’s workplace? Well, check out this post from my good friend, compensation guru Ann Bares. She brings a big dose of common sense to this argument, and even though this was written for me over at TLNT back in 2012, what she had to say back then still resonates today:

“I continue to be amazed at the pervasiveness and sheer staying power of the generational framework.

We are urged to look at everything, EVERYTHING – from management techniques to employee engagement efforts to reward programs – through the lens of generational differences and needs. And to buy in to the notion that the entire work experience must be re-invented to accommodate each consecutive generation.

And so, I had to smile at Bob Sutton’s assertion that, au contraire, things like the hallmarks of great leaders – and the needs of younger workers – are timeless

The key point, as Bob notes, is that we are ignoring a critical distinction between someone’s generational group, which will stay constant over time, and someone’s age, which changes. Younger workers have always wanted different things than older workers, be they Boomers, Gen X, Gen Y – or whatever.”

There’s a lot more to Ann’s post if you want to go over to TLNT and take a look, but just remember:

If we took the time spent bashing young employees and used it to focus on how the better engage them in the modern workforce, I think we’d all be a lot better off.

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