We are told that they have no company loyalty and think nothing of changing jobs several times a year until they find an environment that suits them. They grew up playing little league games in which there were no losers, only winners. Their parents praised them so much, that they don't know how to take criticism. Ask them to work overtime? Forget about it.

These are the stereotypes of the next generation of workers: The Millennials. It's "my way or the highway" for these twentysomethings and younger. The world tried to call them Gen Yers, but this group found a way to change their moniker — by calling en masse into the late Peter Jennings during a televised news show with their preference. The workaholic baby boomers and even the individualistic and comp-time-loving Gen Xers are in a conundrum on how to manage the younger generation.

Are you tired of the stereotypes yet? Here's a few more.

Optimistic. Realistic. Globally concerned. Cyber literate. Overachievers. These descriptors also illustrate the Millennial generation. Experts say that in many ways the youngest generation is more like the WWII era's hard-working "Greatest Generation" than any other generation alive today.

While each generation of people share common values, behaviors, and work ethics — shaped by economic, social, and political climates of their formative years — it is dangerous to stereotype a group of 76-million-strong individuals. Negative stereotypes based on age — or generation gaps — can lead to misunderstanding, miscommunication, plummeting morale, and loss of productivity.

Even so, it is wise to know a few generational markers when managing younger employees. For instance, one out of every three Millennials is a member of a minority group; managers should be mindful of their cultural acceptance. Supervisors should also understand that traditional gender roles have no place in a Millennial's equal-opportunity world view. Also, younger workers seek constant feedback, and benefit from mentor programs and team environments. And what's the best way to lead this group? By cheerful example.

Most importantly, don't forget that these tech-savvy workers grew up with computers, and are most at-home with gadgets and technology. They can be assets to your department in this ever-evolving digital and cyber world.

Still wary of ushering in the next generation of public works professionals? Consider the following observations:

"I see no hope for the future of our people if they are dependent on the frivolous youth of today, for certainly all youth are reckless beyond words. When I was a boy, we were taught to be discrete and respectful of elders, but the present youth are exceedingly wise and impatient of restraint." — Hesiod, 700 B.C.

"The children now love luxury. They have bad manners and contempt for authority. They show disrespect for adults, and love to talk rather than work or exercise. They no longer rise when adults enter the room. They contradict their parents, chatter in front of company, gobble down food at the table, and intimidate their teachers." — Socrates (469 - 399 B.C.)

Generational issues are nothing new.

Source: American Public Works Association Congress & Exposition
Session: Leading the Generations
George F. Haines, Program Director, Mining Technology, Northern Wyoming Community College District
Gillette, N.Y.
Mon., Sept. 14, 2009
10:30 a.m. - noon