Millennial Myth #1 - Millennials Are Lazy

Tanya Pinto
Millennial Myth #1 - Millennials Are Lazy

This is part of a new series dispelling the myths around millennials and work.

Myth #1: Millennials are lazy

„Millennials simply cannot emulate the hard working employees from past generations, and want to have an easy time at work. They are rushing to get back home once the required number of hours are clocked in, and are unwilling to devote any extra hours to their job. They do not want to travel long distances to get to work, and want to know if they will be paid for any additional task they are assigned. Simply put, Millennials are incorrigibly lazy.“

This myth is quite popularly believed across organizations, but is very far from the truth. Millennials are nothing like this myth portrays them to be.  

Compare that baseless myth to these awe-inspiring Millennials: Mark Zuckerberg launched the idea of Facebook while still in college, while teaming up with equally young and competent friends. Instead of choosing a cushy job with a secure income, these Millennials decided to back their own business idea. At 32, Zuckerberg is one of the world’s most powerful CEOs, and Facebook is now synonymous with ‘social networking,’ with no other competitor of equal merit. Such blazing success could only be achieved with meticulous hard work. Before classifying Zuckerberg as a one-off Millennial, consider this – many of today’s most popular and successful businesses were conceptualised and tediously built by Millennials. Snapchat was launched by Millennial Evan Spiegel, Airbnb by Brian Chesky and Dropbox by Drew Houston. Millennials are proving to be highly successful at running astoundingly successful businesses, which clearly indicates their excellent work ethic. 

Then why are employers struggling to manage Millennials at the workplace?

As Buddy Hobart and Herb Sendek explain in their bestselling book Gen Y Now, Millennials are more family-centric than the previous generations, and need a healthy work-life balance. Globally, the total number of hours worked have been steadily declining. 

Source: The Atlantic

This is a positive quality, and employers should take this into consideration before pressing Millennials under the weight of unrealistic expectations. Additionally, studies have found that the total number of hours worked in the knowledge or service sector are much lower than typically the manufacturing sector, which may tend to fuel the myth that white-collared Millennials are lazy. However, this is a misconception. In fact, Facebook’s high rating as an Millennial-friendly employer has been affected this year due to some employee reviews which state that they are required to work very long hours. A recent report published by the International Labour Organization suggests that ‘the logical future policy direction regarding working time should be deregulation and flexibilization.’

However, this does in any way suggest that Millennials are not serious about their work or are ready to rush home at the drop of a hat, even if there is an assignment to be completed. What makes this generation of employees different, is that they are effectively harnessing technology to change the way a workplace is accessed and structured. This means that instead of sitting at the office desk until midnight to finish a project with a looming deadline, Millennials are more mobile and can instead work from the computer at home, ensuring that the task is completed. Time spent in office should not be equated with productivity or the actual work completed – as Millennials today are connected to their job 24/7 through email and internet, thus being able to work hard even when not being seen by the boss. 

That being said, Millennials today want a strong sense of purpose and meaning to the work they do. They do not want to have run-of-the-mill careers, but want to witness a real impact that their job is having, either in their immediate team or the company as a whole. Business management specialist Daniel Pink calls this the ‘third drive,’ where Millennials focus on an intrinsic motivation to complete a task at hand, and feel a sense of achievement by being able to fulfill their job well. This is the most undermined quality that is manifested in Millennials – that they seek a sense of satisfaction in the nature of the very job itself, instead of relying on external economic rewards or praises from senior managers. Only because Millennials do not present themselves as perpetually chained to their office desks, it does not mean that they are not working hard enough to diligently meet deadlines.

In order to create a workplace that allows Millennials to perform to the best of their ability, employers need to offer more flexibilities at the workplace. More ‘flexibility’ does not mean that employers should allow slacking, but instead should shift focus from ‘number of hours’ worked to the quality of work completed and goals achieved. This is not an abstract idea or an entirely new concept – several successful companies like Google, Twitter and LinkedIn are already allowing employees greater freedom to manage their time at work. This leads to more original innovation and creates a positive, productive work environment which helps everyone benefit. 

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