How NOT to make Millennials feel welcome at your nonprofit

Gen Y Millennial

Is it something you said?


Last week, I posed a question to my Facebook network in hopes of validating some thoughts I’d had around the subject of ageism in the workplace. In a couple of past jobs, my age, while something that was known up front, was indirectly used against me. And what became apparent to me when I had six comments on my post within 10 minutes, was that a lot of my friends were having similar experiences.


The question was this: What are some things bosses or older coworkers have said to you regarding your age/generation that they didn’t necessarily mean to sound rude, but actually was?


Generational tension is bound to take place, but most Millennials I know have been at the mercy of some pretty nasty comments. We’re quick to brush them off and we know that (most of the time), our coworkers and bosses aren’t trying to discourage us, but here are some of the responses I received:


“’You have no life experience. You are so green.’” – Boulder, Colorado


“’I only made $17,000 a year when I started working. You shouldn’t complain about your salary.’” – Cleveland, Ohio


“’You’re just a kid.’ (Hearing this) makes me wonder if they realize I’m pushing 30.” – Toledo, Ohio


“’Why does your generation feel so entitled to full-time, well-paying jobs?’ When I asked how long after graduating it took her to find a full-time, tenure track job, she scoffed saying, ‘Well, it was such a different time back then.’” – Mumbai, Maharashtra, India


“Wow, you really do seem like you know what you’re doing!” – Columbus, Ohio


“My boss will walk by a 40+ year old worker on his or her cell phone and not care. But if someone in their 20’s is on his or her cell phone, they’re quick to tell us to stay off our phone.” – Watertown, New York


“In my interview for my first job out of college, the person said, ’People your age have a tendency to only stay for an average of seven months. I am challenging you to triple that.’” – Chicago, Illinois


“’You’re young – you can work these long hours like I did 25 years ago.’” – Cincinnati, Ohio


“It’s not so much what they say, but how they say it. They make me feel like an outcast a lot. Saying things like, ‘Oh you’re too young to know what I’m talking about.’ Or giving me more tasks than others because I’m ‘young and agile.’ I’ve even been told that I’m ‘nothing like the rest of the kids out there.’ But I am a lot like people my age – trying to find a decent paying job in a field I like.” – Cleveland, Ohio


“I told my boss a key decision was wrong because of reasons X, Y and Z and he ignored me and the project totally derailed because of those aforementioned reasons.” – Athens, Ohio


“People don’t take me seriously because I’m not at a senior level based on the title I hold. I’m ‘just out of college.’ I’m a female and I’m young. I’m not as technical as other people. And people have said to me that because I had a child at ‘such a young age,’ I should be able to work longer hours since I’m up at night.” – Colorado Springs, Colorado


“’So what do you want to be when you grow up?’ Uh – I’m 27. Maybe asking me what my ‘dream job’ is would be more appropriate.” – Chicago, Illinois


“’You can stay and work late because you don’t have anyone waiting on you at home. It’s not like you have anything else to do, so you’re fine to stay late.” – Findlay, Ohio


“’You put a shiny thing in front of them and there is no hope of them getting anything done.’” – Bucyrus, Ohio


“Management has no problem pulling me off the floor or contacting me outside of work to tell me about a mistake I’ve made. But with older coworkers, they’ll make excuses or let things slide more.” – Columbus, Ohio


Drawing attention to these somewhat ageist comments and situations is important when establishing a compassionate, trustworthy and enjoyable atmosphere in the workplace. Look – we know we’re the youngest generation of the workforce, but you also knew that when you hired us. There’s no elephant in the room when it comes to our lack of professional experience. But we’re highly educated; we’ve seen and experienced a lot of important historical events right along with you; and we’ve grown up with every single modern technology there is.


We want to learn. We’re eager and energetic. And we’re ready to help you take your organization to the next level. Just don’t remind us how old we aren’t every day.



Headshot of Kadi McDonaldA professional copywriter working with Macy’s Store Communications team, Kadi continues to fulfill her passion for communication by serving as the resident Millennial blogger with Third Sector Today. She also serves on the advisory board for GlamourGals and is the content manager for BLEEP Magazine. She’s a recent transfer to NYC, but calls Ohio home. She graduated with a BS in Magazine Journalism from the E.W. Scripps School of Journalism at Ohio University and spent five years in Ohio’s capital city of Columbus, working as a professional communicator and managing a trade magazine for the insurance industry for three years and working with The Harmony Project as a member and as the social media coordinator. She is a triathlete, loves golf and tennis, and coaches swimming.