Does your employer owe you wages or a livelihood?
That's the question that emerges when you read two very different open letters published by a pair of working millennials that went viral this week.
Talia Jane, a 25-year old employee at Yelp/Eat24 got that debate started when she published a letter to her CEO complaining she can't afford her groceries on her salary. The letter ultimately got her fired. But later Stefanie Williams, a 29-year-old fellow millennial, wrote a rebuttal to Talia, titling it, "An Open Letter to Millennials Like Talia."
While Talia and Stefanie are only four years apart, the two highlight a major contrast within a single generation. And it might not be as simple as coming down to their different attitudes or work ethic, but perhaps the difference in the state of economy when each entered the workforce.
Stefanie began working just before the financial crisis and she says she was laid off with millions of other Americans when things fell apart in 2008. A year later in the summer of 2009, the unemployment rate for 16-to-24 year olds was nearly 19%.
The younger Talia started working when the economy was better and wrote her letter as the unemployment rate is
The contrast is highlighted in their choice of words.
When Talia wanted to make more money and get a better job within her company, she wrote, "I was told I'd have to work in support for an entire year before I would be able to move to a different department."
She bolded the word 'year'.
Stefanie details her struggles rebounding from losing a job by writing about how she took restaurant hostess jobs: "After about a year, I was making enough money to live. And after several years, I was making enough money to live well," she wrote.
Perspective is key. Many people who graduated college in the years 2007 - 2010 still consider themselves lucky to have two things: an apartment and a job. (And I mean one job, not three).
The contrast goes to show how generalizations can be unfair and unproductive. If such a drastic contrast can be found between a 25-year-old and 29-year-old, imagine the differences between a 19 year old and a 31 year old, still both considered millennials.
"We are unfairly labeling entire swaths of the population based on an arbitrary 20-year wide age bracket," Jessica Kriegel, an organizational development consultant at Oracle, told CNBC.
Kriegel highlights these contrasts in her forthcoming book, "Unfairly Labeled: How Your Workplace Can Benefit From Ditching Generational Stereotypes."
"The feud between Talia and Stefanie highlights the diversity within each generation, whether it be the sense of entitlement, work ethic, or even just kindness," Kriegel told CNBC.
"Talia's use of social media to publicly express her opinion plays into the stereotype that millennials lack a sense of privacy and over-rely social media," she added. "Perhaps some believe she lacks common sense, (another stereotype about millennials), but one media-hyped example does not a generation make!"
It's an interesting debate, but maybe neither Talia or Stefanie are wrong. While some think of Talia as lazy and entitled, others says she does deserve to get paid more and should be commended for taking a stand. Like most anything else, it depends on who you ask.