Let’s get this out of the way. We are going to indulge in some stereotypes throughout this conversation. Not everyone is exactly the same! Not all Millennials are tech-savvy Twitter mongrels. Not all Boomers are old, stodgy authoritarians. Everybody is an individual, so you can’t continually try to shove people into a box and blindly characterize millions of people just because they were born within a 15-year period from each other.
All good? Good! Now act like that first paragraph didn’t exist and let’s throw tons of people into boxes! Tiny boxes! Boxes made of corrugated cardboard so your hand bleeds whenever you try to break the box down and recycle it!
I get to speak across the country to thousands of people about leadership and generational issues. I absolutely LOVE my job. And you know what I LOVE about my job the most? I get to politely make fun of Millennials. I get to make fun of myself! I get to poke fun of my generation, laugh at the number of face injuries we’ve caused walking into things because we were distracted by our phones, and laugh at the fact we basically created a billion dollar coffee industry when just twenty years ago coffee was free everywhere you went. I don’t remember the time myself, but I’m told coffee flowed from faucets freely instead of costing $8 without free refills.
And while I love laughing at some of the silly things we do on a daily basis, I also love getting the opportunity to bring us closer to each other by recognizing our differences aren’t that far apart. The audiences I get to speak with are not filled with Millennials. In fact, it’s often the opposite. The audiences generally skew older towards Gen X and Baby Boomers. That means after every engagement I’m undoubtedly going to get in a conversation with a Baby Boomer who thinks all Millennials are lazy and lack the skills necessary to perform adult tasks like sending a properly worded email, showing up on time, and not speaking in hashtags. It’s in these moments where I relish in the challenge of convincing others we’re much more similar than we are different. In my experience, it’s how we perceive our situation (or others) which might get us out of whack from time to time and thinking there’s no common ground.
With that in mind, let’s address a commonly-heard gripe about Millennials, but approach it from an uncommon perspective:
Millennials are the hardest working generation. “Huh? That doesn’t sound right. I’ve always heard Millennials are lazy and have zero work ethic.” And you’d be absolutely right to believe that’s exactly what you heard. But it also means you’re wrong. Millennials are arguably the hardest working generation in the workforce today, albeit how they approach work looks drastically different than their older counterparts.
Boomers typically approach work in a hierarchical structure. In order to get things done, you must go through the proper channels and the defined process. After all, that’s what they had to do in their early-career years. You pay your dues. You put in your time. In fact, hard work and work ethic are defined by the number of hours you put into the job. Now that Boomers are in middle-to-upper management levels or serve as a mentor to younger colleagues, they expect the same approach to take hold with Millennials.
The problem is Millennials don’t view work in hierarchical structures. If anything, hierarchy gets in the way of progress. It slows things down to a crawl. Millennials aren’t impressed by someone putting in a ton of hours at the office. “You put in 60 hours this week? Wow, you must be really inefficient with your time!” In today’s world, the number of hours you put into a job is not a gauge for your work ethic.
Instead, Millennials judge work ethic by how often and how quickly you find a solution. Think about it. Do Millennials you work with hesitate to talk with a VP decision-maker in the hallway if it means they’ll get an answer to their question? Do Millennials patiently wait 3 weeks for the IT department to fix a website they need to do their job when they could fix it on their own in a few hours? The answer is no. They don’t hesitate. Millennials will quickly eschew protocol and procedure in the name of finding a solution faster and more frequently.
We also shouldn’t be quick to judge their missteps in the process as failures. Millennials have been taught you sometimes rush to deliver an idea instead of spending weeks tying up every loose end. Phone apps frequently update new versions based on feedback from users. Why not take the same approach to our work? Millennials are accustomed to failing in their pursuit for pace.
At the end of the day, we all want the same thing. We all want our team, company, or idea to succeed. We might just be approaching the work with a different point of view. Are some Millennials lazy? Yes. But the majority are hard-working, passionate, and define work ethic differently than generations before them. It’s less about the hours you put in and more about finding solutions any way possible.
Yeah cos you know everything Rick
Maybe your opinion is biased because you are a millennial. This is BS. As someone who works in the real world where people do hard manual labor, millenials call into work, take longer breaks and disappear during their shifts more than anyone I’ve ever worked with. Also once AGAIN Gen Xers are forgotten about in a conversation..Total bullcrap!
Absolute BS, I work with millennials and it’s difficult at best even to get the to show up in time. This article is just way off.
I agree with Rick!! All the mellenials I work with, including my children I’m sorry to say, are not hard workers. They all feel entitled. They want the pay, but don’t want to work to earn it. In fact most often than others, they are out for whatever reason. Call in sick, whether they’re sick or not, or have something to do that for some reason can’t be done after work. And they always whine about their pay. I hear them all the time saying things like, “I don’t get paid enough to do this”, or “not in my job description”. The fact of the matter is if you accept a job, for whatever pay, you do the job. The millennials I work with are more than happy to just sit in our office all day and let the 60 year old woman do all the work. I have only met a handful in my years of working that pull their own weight, or even take responsibility…for anything.
So true! As a Gen Xer I can relate. My Gen Z kids are much better workers than the millenials ever were. Can’t believe they called us the slacker generation…
There’s no mention of Genx in this article, which is appropriate as we are the forgotten generation and it’s not about us it’s about the two generations who have all the limelight.
If a Mellenial is complaining they aren’t getting paid enough, that’s them telling you why they put in no effort. As a generation we give what you pay for and not an ounce more. After the previous generations dismantled union systems before we even hit the workforce this is what you get.
On the other hand I’m constantly being praised for getting things done above and beyond expectations, know why? I’m given proper compensation for my work and I love the work I do. I get an appropriate amount of payed leave, and my employer treats me like a collaborator and not like a field hand.
Mellenials aren’t lazy, we just have an abundance of self respect.
As a boomer and the parent of a millennial, I much prefer their attitude toward work than the boomer approach that was forced on me over the years. The millennials may not appear to work hard because their career paths don’t follow the old school ways of doing things. They listened to their parents continually complain about their jobs, their bosses, their hours, and decided they weren’t going to spend their days being miserable. Many are choosing careers they care about, have a positive impact and are actually fun to do. Guess boomers figure if you aren’t hating, then you aren’t working hard.
I love the perspective you’ve shared. Thanks for reading and commenting!
Sounds like you have no clue. Probably why these kids have no clue. When adults feed weakness it creates more weakness.
I call BS. I’m a Gen Xer and have managed/hired people of all generations (from GIs to Gen Z). My millennials are unicorns and constantly create problems I have to solve. They negatively impact my productivity.
They don’t seem to get along with other generations which creates issues and don’t seem to engage others in develop multigenerational leadership teams.
They are seemingly unwilling or unable to look at an organizational system, analyze an area that needs improvement within in their responsibility, and the manage the solution without being asked and ego-stroked along the way.
That may be a bit harsh and unfair, but I’ve lost many key clients (typically boomers and Xer’s) that have been managed by millennials. I hope others have better experiences.
Your perspectives is interesting. I’m a millennial but most of my coworkers are of an older generation. I have found your complaints to be true of many of them. They are the last to take on new projects or do process improvements and constantly complete that they are too busy even though our manager says my workload is the heaviest. I’m the youngest by about 15 years but I’m the highest paid worker in the department because I do the job efficiently and take on more responsibility. However I had a good manager when I started. She helped me see where I needed to grow skills-wise.
I also hire multigenerational from the Silent Gen to Boomers to X, Y and Z. Yes, I hired my 80 year old mother to do a commercial. And even tho we have our own personal dynamic, she was a delight to work with. But, I’m coining the term “millennial mess” because that’s all I seem to be cleaning up these days. Causing confusion, cancellations, chaos, calamity. Can’t take highly constructive criticism but judge all day. They react, they don’t respond. Will fight for their lives when expressing concern for social issues but have total lack of empathy to the individual. Nurtured narcissism, hyper sensitive, needs constant praise for just being. If they are no longer ecstatic about their job and just merely content, they easily quit. Jaded for no reason. Their reality is filtered by apps. Blame us for the economy, the climate, their personal situations, and so on. They’re the employee type to be contacted on Monday, only to be contacted again on Friday morning due to no response. Then replies the following Tuesday that they don’t work on the weekends. My Gen Zer kid has more work ethic than them and honestly I can’t wait til they age into obscurity, which is happening faster for them than us.
I’m a millennial, 36 years old, I have a very well paying position at a company I’ve worked at for the past 11 years. I worked my way up in that time, as I must say I’ve followed the both the boomer and millennial work ethic viewpoint the entire way. I work very efficiently, but also put in very long hours just to do more. I’m never satisfied with the amount I get done. That being said, I must say that out of the 100’s of people I’ve worked with, the millennials and gen z have been the hardest to work with. The 2 biggest problems is a sense of entitlement and an inability to show up for work. My perspective is simply do whatever I have to do to pay the bills, and support the family. I have boomer parents, and that’s the biggest thing I took from them. You may not like it, but you have to do it. It’s called being an upright contributing member to society.
Well said Adam! You are an astute young man and I’m sending a shout out to your parents who must be so proud of you! Bottom line, a solid work ethic, strong moral compass and compassionate attitude will take you far.
You nailed it Adam!!
Sorry Matt. I have no idea where you grew up or where you’re from now, but your biased opinion in this article is just that. Now please don’t get me wrong. There are hard working individuals of ALL generations etc. That’s a given. There are also individuals from EVERY generation that have no business being in any workplace. That being said, just do the friggin job you signed up for. If you don’t like it then move on. It’s pretty simple. There are a lot of “boomer” haters out there and some of them are justified. I’m a Gen X’er. Haters are gonna hate, but that’s only because they are insecure & inadequate. I am not a haters, but I am extremely sick and tired of listening to the millennials and those that have followed, piss and moan about having to do physical labor. I also have the unfortunate task of dealing with the same generations bitching and complaining about sitting in an office all day when I hand in paperwork. Deal with it people. Go pump gas, which is a good honest job btw, if you can’t handle the other stuff. Just get it done.
At 60 years old I work at a truss assembly factory not one of the 18-40 year old kids could keep up with me they call in sick constantly always on their phones or just standing around talking 20 minute crap breaks they are the laziest people ever spoiled entitled brats
Gen X is laughing at this article and going back to work cleaning up the never-ending messes created by the boomers and millennials.
You really are in fantasy world Bob, or maybe even an outright liar- lol. It’s actually the other way around. You may even be another legend in your own mind. But have no fear. Life will inevitably give you and others like you a wake call one day that none of you will forget. Then we can all sit there with a huge ear to ear grin enjoying how you all deserve it. What knuckleheads many of you prove to be.
All generations have their good and poor workers. But I have to say from engaging with them first hand in the work place(including the greatest generation to the most recent): Many of them – after baby boomers and the greatest generation – have a clue about proper work ethic. They are full of manure. They have little in the way of skills except for modern computer devices, can not take advice well, and certainly don’t take criticism well at all.
The only cure for them would likely be to experience an economic depression, as necessity truly is the mother of invention. Did I forget to mention they are drama queens? As previously mentioned, you always have good and poor workers. But for the most part, after the baby boomers, they all suck big time. There’s a 24 year old I work with now. Management asked me to spoon feed him the most menial of tasks. He works ten minutes at a time and then walks away saying he’s exhausted, or starving or to go do something (actually nothing-lol). After his first week of work he said he wants to be a supervisor. And this is on a heavy construction site. This type of behavior is indicative of a total disconnect. I have a nephew that is similar. He thinks he’s wonderful but knows very little about his duties. This country is in trouble. Our leaders know it. That’s why they are letting millions across our borders illegally. I figure the psychoanalyst professional has a lot of growth potential in the field of practice. These young workers today are and will be head cases. Sad but true. One more thing. The author of the article has absolutely no clue and may very well be full of you know what. Ok I’ll give him the benefit of the doubt. He’s another legend in his own mind attempting clickbait. LMAO.