In my colleague’s March blog post, “Productivity is on life support: Blame the Millennials and the Baby Boomers,” he pointed out that the annual growth rate of productivity from year to year between 2007 and 2015 was 60% lower than the year to year growth rate between 1947 and 1973. He contended that both the older, less productive baby boomers and the easily distracted millennials were to blame for the decrease in growth rate. Indeed many articles have been written about the Millennial “Me, Me, Me” generation.
Recently the Texas department of labor established an overtime rule that allows overtime pay for more salaried workers. The biggest complaint from business leaders on this ruling is that younger employees, millennials, don’t deserve to be paid overtime for the work they should have accomplished during their regular hours. As one complainant to the department of labor suggested, “The younger workers are often off task, engaged on social media, on the internet, texting on phones and other unproductive activities.”
Here we have further suggestions that Millennials are basically…well…. lazy. Below is an alleged quote from a prominent intellectual on the state of our youth which many would agree succinctly describes today’s young workers.
“The children now love luxury; they have bad manners, contempt for authority; they show disrespect for elders and love chatter in place of exercise. They contradict their parents, chatter before company, gobble up dainties at the table….and tyrannize their teachers.”
Sounds exactly like today’s youth but the quote above is allegedly from a disgruntled Socrates sometime prior to his death in 399 B.C nearly 2,500 years ago. I’m not convinced Socrates did indeed say this but regardless, the quote is old and suggests that Millennials aren’t the first generation to patent laziness and disrespect.
Bruce Pfau, the head of human resources for KPMG, spent years studying the differences between the wants and needs at work of Millennials and employees in other generations. He concluded that Millennials weren’t necessarily lazy or narcissistic but rather those are traits exhibited by young people which are corrected as the individual grows older.
Going back through history we see clearly that Millennials aren’t the first generation to be criticized by the media for their self-absorbed attitude. A 1907 article in the Atlantic Monthly on why marriages are failing declared that the “…cult of individualism…” was to blame. In the 70s, acclaimed author Tom Wolf wrote an article for New York magazine called, “The ME Decade. Reports on America’s New Great Awakening.” In it he said, “…The new alchemical dream is: changing one’s personality-remaking, remodeling, elevating and polishing one’s very self…and observing, studying and doting on it. (Me!)…” The Gen-Xers took a hit from Time magazine in 1990 when they dedicated their cover story to the generation who has “trouble making decisions” and whose attention span is as short as “one zap of a TV dial.”
Truly, younger people on average are more narcissistic, however the younger workers of the ‘oos aren’t necessarily more selfish than were 90s workers, and 90’s workers aren’t more self-absorbed than those in the 70’s and 80s. Sure, the distractions from decade to decade may be different. The generation once entranced by MTV now may look down its nose at the Facebook generation and in ten years the Facebook generation may haughtily judge generation Z for its addiction to virtual reality. Regardless however of what actually distracts them, the young people of every generation had a distraction over which the upper generations judged them for being lazy and self-absorbed.
So relax America. Our Millennials will grow out of it. In fact one day they will be writing articles about how bratty and entitled the young workers at their companies are behaving.