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Epic Fail: Millennials Get Slammed in Poll on Workplace Attitudes

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Is GenY lazy

Ever feel like your boss has a habit of giving you disapproving looks or keeping you from the company’s most important accounts?

Your workplace paranoia might be grounded in some truth, at least according to a recent survey of employers across the country.

The poll, conducted by Workplace Options, found that a significant percentage of people think Millennials are less inclined to take on responsibility and produce quality work compared with their non-GenY co-workers.

Nearly 70 percent of survey respondents think Millennials are lazy and uninterested in their jobs. What’s more, 55 percent of Millennials agree.

Yeesh. Rough stuff. Without question, Millennial power and influence grows every day in the professional sphere. But if we view the Workplace Options survey as a progress report on our generation, we still have plenty to learn about life in an office.

It should come as no surprise that we rub our superiors the wrong way. We were raised to chase our dreams, eschew the age-old climb up the corporate ladder, live with an independent streak and rely on finely-tuned tech skills to fix problems 100 times faster than our parents.

GenY cares little for corporate bureaucracy, red tape and the snail’s pace at which some companies make decisions. If we see the right answer, we run with it. If we can’t do it our way, we sometimes often check out and stare at the clock. But at our best, we are experts in today’s need-it-now culture.

There’s only one snafu with this tried and true approach to work: in most cases, Millennials are not in charge. We serve at the behest of older folks who not only pay our salaries but have likely worked in our field for years, if not decades. Just like Millennials, they have developed their own work strategies – and GenY’s brash, get-it-done approach doesn’t always mesh well with their style.

And now this recent poll makes it abundantly clear what older employees think of us. Rather than go on the defense, savvy Millennials should take the survey’s findings to heart and change the way we approach our 9-to-5.

So your boss expects you to not take initiative and ask for more responsibility on a big project? Prove him wrong and ask how you can get more involved. Your supervisor assumes you can’t get a huge assignment done in a short amount of time? Stay late, check it for errors backwards and forwards, and turn it around by the next morning.

Don’t give your boss a reason to doubt you; give yourself an opportunity to earn respect.

Each generation has its own unique style, and the Millennial tool kit is indispensable in today’s business climate. But technical mastery is one thing, and attitude another. No one can deny an employee who comes to work every day with a smile and flat out works hard.

Danny Rubin is a national news consultant for media research firm Frank N Magid Associates. He is a former television news reporter, lives in Washington, D.C. and tweets as @dannyhrubin.

Brazen powers real-time, online events for leading organizations around the world. Our lifestyle and career blog, Brazen Life, offers fun and edgy ideas for ambitious professionals navigating the changing world of work.

  • http://champlainprofessor.blogspot.com Elaine Young (@ejyoung67)

    I wonder if that same survey has been given to college professors about their students?

  • http://www.hire-me-dammit.com Megan Dougherty

    I don’t know that I can agree with this entirely. It’s certainly the case that newcomers to the game have to play by the established rules – but I don’t think it follows logically that “the way things are done” is the best, or that it should be catered to at the expense of other methods.

    It seems like an office-bound Generation Y-er has a few options when faced with disapproval at their attitude:

    Acknowledge that they are working for a company that doesn’t value their native skills, abilities and attitude etc, and do the bare minimum possible to get along, savings their energy and personal resources until a better opportunity presents itself or:

    Work really hard in ways that don’t make sense to them, giving up individuality and independent thought to impress the big cheese in order to one day be just like one of them.

    I suppose I don’t feel that “it’s the way it is” is a good enough reason to waste talent. Millennials may be lazy when it comes to kowtowing to so-called “corporate culture,” but I think it’s been well proven that given their head – autonomy and creative/structural freedom – they make great things happen. The company who doesn’t use that may be in the majority – but I think they’re also doomed to obsolescence in the long-run.

    I think we can all agree that communication between different generations in the workplace, and collaboration between people with different mindsets would be a better alternative than squeezing people into a mold that they will never be able to perform well or be happy in.

    • Marty Lake

      Yahtzee!

      Well said.

    • Danny Rubin

      Hey Megan-

      Thanks a lot for the post.

      In my view, working hard and having a positive attitude should never come into conflict with individuality. And it also doesn’t mean we’re kowtowing or ‘playing the game.’ It’s about being mature. If you sign up for a job, then you do what’s required. You don’t loaf around and you don’t roll your eyes when things don’t go exactly as planned.

      Bring all your unique skills to bear, but do it with the right attitude. Bosses want our knowledge and know-how, so give it to em everyday, but don’t forget to smile — and be glad you have a steady paycheck!

      You said:

      ‘Acknowledge that they are working for a company that doesn’t value their native skills, abilities and attitude etc, and do the bare minimum possible to get along, savings their energy and personal resources until a better opportunity presents itself or:’

      The best way to get to that ‘better opportunity’ is to kick ass at your current opportunity, whether or not you’re treated like a rock star every day. Hard work pays off. Plain and simple.

      Also, I’m a Millennial, so I don’t want anyone reading my blog post to think I’m some veteran executive who doesn’t understand ‘these kids today.’ I’m just trying to help us all survive and advance :)

      – Danny

      • http://www.hire-me-dammit.com Megan Dougherty

        Hey Danny,

        Believe me, I can get behind the need to do what’s needed to get along – absolutely, no question. I’m also not condoning people who actually fail to perform their job description – as you say, you make an agreement, you stick to it. But for folks who go to work to do a good job, and are irked because they aren’t allowed to influence the way they do their work or organize their days etc. etc. I think that being asked to “slap on a smile” is worth an eye roll.

        Marty Lake said: “Oddly enough, many Millenials are the offspring of Boomers (mid to tail end, but Boomers nonetheless). So are those who are in leadership basically saying that their ability to raise the next generation of leadership was also an abject failure? :)”

        I was going to make a similar point: Another “It is what it is” thing (which I am neither approving nor disapproving) is that Millennials were raised with the understanding that “we can do anything, be anything, achieve anything, we are unique, special, valued and important” then faced a reality where you sit down, suck it up and put in your time to inch ahead by brutally slow degrees. Going from school, which we almost all did, to the workplace is nothing less than culture shock.

        Going one step further – we see ‘the way things are’ failing miserably. We have no expectation of job security, or any reward for our hard work and loyalty other than being laid off right before our pensions would kick in – like our parents were. Which is to say that hard work doesn’t necessarily pay off – at least not in traditional companies.

        I think the idea that if you smile, work hard and give it 110% you’ll succeed is really deeply ingrained in our North-American culture, and saying otherwise is “un-American” at best. “Otherwise” is often the case, however, where you can work long and hard for a company and be dropped faster than a hot potato as soon as you’ve outlived your usefulness, or there is the slightest whiff of profit in it for the organization. Even if it doesn’t’ happen to you – you know that it could.

        None of this is to say that people should slack off – but by and large people, including, I believe, Millennials, like to work hard and achieve results – when there is a reasonable expectation of satisfaction in it. That everyone doesn’t derive that satisfaction the same way from the same things should come as no surprise.

        • Marty Lake

          I like how you summarized the cultural aspects – so very true.

          What I’ve found to be amusing in my career is that whether I’m the one being interviewed or the one doing the interviewing, the topic of emphasis is teamwork. Yet, once you walk through the doors, the notion of teamwork becomes more of an illusion and it is back to cutthroat competition and rugged individualism.

          For anyone who has played a team sport, participated in instrumental and/or vocal music or been part of any club or organization that depends on the sum of the parts rather than the individual parts knows that team members from time to time are off their game. As a teammate you can get mad, pout and throw them under the bus, or you can pick them up when they are down. Personally, I error on the latter because I believe most people are decent folks and are just probably trying to get through life same as me. Who knows what personal challenges they may have going on at the moment.

          The teamwork concept was more in its infancy during my time in school as an X’er. Millennials really are the generation where this became the rule as opposed to the exception. I do not find it odd at all that they would question the blind devotion of smiling and giving 110% as Megan stated, because the evidence and behavior simply do not add up. Is this entitlement? Or is it perhaps calling a spade a spade and the powers that be do not like it?

          Every generation, race, age and creed has slackers. Every older generation thinks the younger generation is worse. It is as common as the sun rising and setting each day!

        • Danny Rubin

          Megan-

          You make some very valid points, and I hear you. In today’s economy, it’s true that not even hard work, a winning attitude and a sterling track record are enough to keep someone in a job. If a company has to make cuts, then you might be let go regardless of how great you are a particular job.

          From my point of view, (almost always working under people who are much older), I really don’t know how else to conduct myself other than being eager to learn and happy to be there.

          Could it all end tomorrow? Yes.

          But what if I find myself on a team of ten, and the CFO decides he has to cut five to save money? He’ll ask the team manager for the five most expendable people (assume the team is mostly people around the same age making the same money). If you’re a solid employee, odds are you’ll survive the cuts. Crappy employees may very well be shown the door.

          Could all ten jobs be eliminated in the same manner? Without question. My general rule is this: working hard leads to more opportunities. Life can be cruel, unpredictable and downright stupid sometimes, but genuine effort opens doors like nothing else.

          What if you get axed along with a senior executive? And then that senior executive decides to go out on her own and a form a new company. If she liked your work ethic, she might bring you on board and voila! A new opportunity is born.

          You can’t control the ups and downs of the job market, but you can ALWAYS control how YOU are perceived.

          I am by no means an eternal optimist. Just a realist :)

  • Anonymous

    What interests me the most here is the percentage of millenials who agree with that statement. If you felt that you didn’t take responsibility and produced poor quality work, why wouldn’t you want to do something about that?

    • http://twitter.com/stuckaholic Alex Dogliotti

      Food for thought.You may not want to do something about it because today more than ever people want to do meaningful work, and meaning is given by values. Funny thing is, many companies invest lots of time and effort in processes and products, but close to zero in making sure they reflect values people (employees) share and are attracted to. Maybe that would lead to more passion and results and responsibility.

      • Anonymous

        Good point!

      • SLV

        You really wouldn’t want to do something about not taking responsibility and not producing quality work? Why then would anyone employ you, even in a job where you might find meaning? I work for a large engineering firm, and I agree that employers should do more to value people. But not being a responsible employee isn’t going to help employers value us more.

    • http://www.IAmNickArmstrong.com Nick Armstrong

      I don’t think the millennials who agreed think THEY are lazy or produce poor quality work, I think they think OTHER millennials are lazy.

      This is absolutely the case – it’s very difficult for me to trust someone my age to get something done the way I want and when I want – but every case is different. I’ve been burned many times, but ultimately every person has their own work ethic. And when you’re running your own business, it’s really easy to say, “Oh, I’ll stick with the 40+ crowd because they’re hungrier…” when really it’s an individual trait.

      40, 82, or 12, there’s lazy people everywhere – and there’s also very dedicated, hard-working people of every generation. The trick is turning the lazy ones around.

  • http://twitter.com/JoyAndLife Gurprriet Siingh-Joy

    I believe Millenials get into the job market with a far higher sense of entitlement today, than any workforce before them. Hark back to what JFK said, “Ask not what your country can do for you. Ask what you can do for your country”. It is a similar sense of entitlement that is ruining the economy today. A lot of us behave like millenials and this is getting scary. Don’t get me wrong, I don’t believe that everything about the millenials is wrong, however, there are some fundamental values that do need to get fixed. Sharing, collaborating, rising above the “me first” are critical.

    • http://www.IAmNickArmstrong.com Nick Armstrong

      Gurprriet — on one side of the equation, you have employers banning and firing employees for social media use. The very nature of social media is collaboration and sharing, yet an entire generation of the workplace prevents us from using the very tools we need to collaborate.

      It’s short-sighted to say we’re entitled when most of us can’t even find work, let alone get respect in the workplace, share ideas, or have any sort of trust garnered over time because by the time the employers are willing to show us that trust, we’ve checked out already.

  • http://www.thevideorankingcode.com Leroy Adams

    Thanks for the great tips! At my previous job this was definitely the case

  • Anonymous

    I wonder how much of this is related to the job market. A lot of us are underemployed by accepting jobs that we’re overqualified for and are below our “desired salaries.” Those factors add to the frustration of having to deal with bureaucratic processes.

  • Marty Lake

    I looked at the data link provided and while interesting, one has to be a bit careful in making sweeping conclusions.

    First, every “older” generation thinks the “younger” generation isn’t nearly as motivated, capable, or hard working as they are. This kind of relativism isn’t new or unique to our collective psyche.

    Second, only 41% of the respondents “regularly” work with Millenials. Regularly is not defined, nor does the study shift to only those who are in regular contact with Millenials to solicit their opinions. My point is that without real exposure, it is merely a matter of conjecture, getting back to point #1. If you don’t regularly work with a group of people, how realistically can you gauge their work ethic?

    Third, what generation is in leadership now? Baby Boomers. I’m personally Gen X. According to sentiments in my generation and my parent’s generation (that some argue is the Greatest Generation) considers Boomers to be an abject failure and the epitome of self-centered selfishness. Oddly enough, many Millenials are the offspring of Boomers (mid to tail end, but Boomers nonetheless). So are those who are in leadership basically saying that their ability to raise the next generation of leadership was also an abject failure? :)

    Fourth, all I ask is that you read between the lines. Of course not all Boomers are abject failures, as are all Millenials lazy and unmotivated.

    People continue to evolve, as do their attitudes and habits. It is just a part of life.

    I’m going to go take a nap now on company time. :)

  • Loriann Kruse

    While understanding that individual personalities are different, I’ve never related to the generality that Millennials, as opposed to Boomers, are entitled and lazy. I can more relate to this article: http://www.forbes.com/sites/danschawbel/2011/12/13/the-expanding-roles-of-millennials-in-the-workplace/

  • Robbien

    I WISH GLORIFIED BLOGGERS WOULD STOP MAKING BRASH ASSUMPTIONS OF GENERATION Y’ERS! YOU’RE JUST JEALOUS!

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  • http://marianlibrarian.com Marian Schembari

    I wonder if this is the case of GenYers or just the case for all companies impression of 20somethings. I reckon it’s the latter.

  • sick of them

    I’m currently the manager of a whole group of millennials, and I find them the laziest, stupidest, most delusionally over-confidant group of individuals I have ever come across in a workplace. They are many times worse than their equally idiotic parents–the boomers. Here’s an example of their self-described “work smart, not hard” attitude: One dumb-ass only bothers to teach about half of her curriculum. She then openly brags that she was able to successfully cover the other half of the curriculum in one day using a power-point presentation. Another dumb-ass uses his lesson-planning time to go home and cut his grass (at least he’s not living in his parents’ basement like the rest of them) and then he comes to work and brags to all and sundry that he doesn’t need to work on his prep period, like the rest of us inferior beings, and this is why he uses company time to go home and mow his lawn. Another dumb-ass, who, only because of the direst necessity, was given the responsibility of teaching senior biology, told me in the arrogant, know-it-all, over-confidant voice she uses to say all things, that plant cells don’t undergo cellular respiration, they only photosynthesize–they took in carbon dioxide and let off oxygen, and didn’t I know that? I asked this smart-ass why she thought plant cells had mitochondria, then. She was shocked silent: she was twenty-seven and it was the first time in her whole life someone bothered to confront her with her profound incompetence.

    • Mores

      A manager in charge of a host of employees who he says is terrible. Rather than see an opportunity for coaching or a realization that his methods aren’t working, he calls them dumb asses, offers criticisms, and does not even mention the possibility of a solution.

      I’d say their biggest problem is their dumb ass manager.

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