47% of Millennials Obsessed With Their Work Reputation vs. 37% of Gen Xers

Plenty of people argue that millennials are not all that different from older members of the population, although perhaps they’re a bit more tech savvy. But what about millennials’ attitudes about work and their reputation in the workplace? “They lack a strong work ethic” is the common refrain, and “they don’t seem to care.”

In fact they care about their reputation at work a great deal, even more than other groups, according to a study, Millennials@Work: Perspectives on Reputation, by the Institute for Public Relations (IPR) and Weber Shandwick.

Nearly half of millennials (47%) report that they think about their reputations at work all or most of the time. That’s compared to 37% of Gen Xers and 26% of baby boomers. Millennials also place even greater value on their in-person interactions at work and after hours than older colleagues.

The online survey of 600 employed U.S. adults found one in five millennials believe work and social media reputations are equally important—more than any other generation.

While job performance and punctuality top the list of reputation builders at work for all the generations surveyed, networking and socializing during off-hours are more important to millennials than any other generation. 34% of millennials see meeting with colleagues outside the office as a positive driver of their work reputation, compared to 14% of Gen Xers and 15% of boomers.

Millennials are less aware than their older cohorts how hearsay and gossip can damage their reputations. And they are less likely to see the danger in saying negative things about co-workers than Gen Xers and boomers (64% vs. 74% vs. 79%, respectively) and engaging in gossip about colleagues (64% vs. 72% vs. 74%, respectively). The survey classified millennials as those 18 to 34 years of age; Gen Xers as 33–50; and boomers as those 51 and older.

With millennials the largest share of the American workforce at 53.5 million people, according to a Pew Research Center analysis of U.S. Census Bureau data, the lessons for PR pros are obvious.

[ Editor’s Note: Sarab Kochhar, Ph.D., director of research, Institute for Public Relations, contributed this article. sarab@instituteforpr.org]

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This article originally appeared in the January 18, 2016 issue of PR News. Read more subscriber-only content by becoming a PR News subscriber today.