The different types of millennials

Posted by in eMBA, Leadership, Organizational Behaviour

Are all millennials motivated in the same way, just because they are born between 1980 and 2000?

Turnbull (2011) has developed a theory that consists of four personality groups (called typologies): Gung-Ho, which is the natural leader and driver of things, the Conventional who is the kind of standard motivated person, the Lifestyle, who care more about ethics, social connections and outside work activities and the last, the Adrift which is the people without any internal drive, no goals, they are not using their skills etc. This theory that Turnbull paints out is very interesting, because it adds a lot to the research, as in that not everyone is alike, and we all have different sources of motivation, and some haven’t really even started to think about motivation (the Adrifts).

He tests how well these types responds to five different theories; Response Theories, Drivers and instinct, Physiological need, Goals and Social theory. This enables Turnbull to give some conclusions how to manage the different types in a workplace. It gets very interesting because now we have something tangible, that actually changes the current knowledge about millennials. They are not one group called “millennials”. They are not at all motivated by the same things. In fact, they are very different to themselves. Turnbull writes that “Differences between the typologies are much greater than differences between any given nation or culture in the research study” (Turnbull, 2011, p.212).

An interesting finding that explains a lot of what is going on in the workplace. Treating everyone as the same has never worked, and now that Turnbull has empirical evidence, this theory can start making it’s way into work places and the trainings of managers. But as with all recently found knowledge it has to be spread and used. Turnbull is not the first one coming up with theories on how different we are, in fact there are a plethora of different ones – from Horoscopes to “Insights Discovery” (Brand) which is based on the research from Swiss psychiatrist Carl Jung, mainly known for “introversion and extroversion”. But Turnbull does it on the context of millennials. That’s a big difference.

These are the three different types of millennials:

Gung-Ho (wikipedia link)

  • Intrepreneurial looking for change from within the organization
  • Looking to become the next leader
  • Confident about their skills and knowledge
  • Overall futurist in thinking about their career
  • Material possessions are important
  • Sports minded
  • Centered on the team


  • Centered on themselves
  • Finds happiness from within
  • Individual comes first than the organization
  • Concerned with leisure activities
  • Passively arrogant about their skills and knowledge
  • Overall holistic in thinking about meanings of life
  • Searches for meanings internally
  • Not conservative in political thought


  • Focused on having a family
  • Eager to work as soon as possible
  • Looking for stability
  • Seeking to work for a company where their values are similar
  • Oriented in local community
  • Spiritual in their believes
  • Compassionate towards others
  • Patriotic towards their home county

I asked millennial participants from 22 countries if they felt they are one or the other type. Most of the millennials identifies themselves as Gung-Ho or Lifestyle.

This is what they answered:


Gung-Ho 37.5%
Lifestyle 37.5%
Conventional 8.9%
None 16.1%


Do you want to know more? Download the entire Master Thesis “What motivates professional early millennials in the workplace” here.

In the master thesis “What motivates professional early millennials in the workplace” (Mejlerö, 2016) I research the topic in with objectives: 1) Critical evaluation of the latest research on the subject, 2) A comparative evaluation of the differences and gaps between how generation X and millennials are motivated, 3) Looking at the seven areas of work motivation, 4) How important is the line manager in the career of the millennials and 5) the establishment of a best practice list of the most important workplace activities the motivates millennials to use their full potential.
Turnbull, Chad (2011) “An Investigation of Work Motivation: Typologies of 21st century business students”, Publisher: Universitat Ramon Llull