With titles like Are Millennials as Bad as We Think? , Gen Y-ny Isn’t Busy, They’re Lazy, and The Millennials: Generation Enlightened or Generation Lazy? the media seems preoccupied in recent years with asserting that Generation Y is a lazy generation. Some articles claim to have studies to prove this. Others only offer anecdotal evidence.
While it’s hard to call into question the journalistic value of articles that inevitably boil down to “this one time… in the office… this Millennial employee did this…,”I would like to take this opportunity to call out these articles for being ridiculous. Articles like these might get a lot of clicks or sell a lot of papers, but it’s not hard to see how tired and predictable they are.
Joel Stein in Time Magazine even starts his articles with an admission that the article he is about to write is really cliche:
I am about to do what old people have done throughout history: call those younger than me lazy, entitled, selfish and shallow. But I have studies! I have statistics! I have quotes from respected academics! Unlike my parents, my grandparents and my great-grandparents, I have proof.
To Mr. Stein I say, you can be meta all you want to but it doesn’t make the subject any less tired. What are some of the accusations being lobbed at Gen Y? Tomas Chamorr0-Premuzic writes in The Guardian:
Unfortunately, millennials have bought into the idea that the cause of success is high self-belief; not discipline, self-knowledge or humility. This keeps their hopes in their (self-perceived) talents intact, as if sooner or later their exceptional potential will be discovered, even if they don’t devote much time to harness it.
Okay, so we’re apparently full of ourselves and expect the world to fall at our feet. Anything else? Rachel Ryan a blogger at Huffington Post adds:
My generation, Gen Y, has been so inundated with notions of a “fulfilling career” that we have all but discarded reality. See, the thing about work is, it’s not always fun and fulfilling. It’s work. And, in this economy, you have to work to get a job and keep a job.
Sure, we also want work to be fulfilling. Is that all? A lawyer who is quoted by the Wall Street Journal sums it up nicely:
“Generation Y is entitled, lazy, selfish, tech savvy, and incompetent.”
In Canada, there are 8 million people born after 1980. In the US, there are 70 million millennials. All of them entitled, lazy, selfish, and incompetent. I’m not sure if ‘tech savvy’ is supposed to be a compliment, but as a self-involved millennial I will take it as one!
Luckily, Gen Y has its defenders. Paul Hudson from lilHub writes:
Some members of Gen-Y are lazy. Just as some members of Gen- X, Gen-W, Gen-F and Gen-whatever letter of the alphabet have you… [I]t’s not a trait unique to generation-Y; it’s a trait unique to human beings. Every person in the world is a bit lazy whenever their environment allows for it.
Much of the coverage also reads as though the article writers enjoy kicking Millennials when they’re down. Some articles decry that so many in Generation Y are unemployed or underemployed. They seem to insinuate that this is the fault of individual members of Generation Y and not the logical outcome of coming of age in one of the largest recessions in recent decades.
What the article writers don’t realize while they write about how lazy Millennials are from the safety of their secure jobs and cushy office chairs is that sometimes it doesn’t matter how much you hustle for a job. In this economy, everyone is hustling and just like in a game of musical chairs, someone is going to be left when the music ends without an office chair to sit on. It’s not a lack of personal drive that’s keeping Millennials out of the workplace. Just look at the unemployment rate. In Canada, Millennials have an unemployment rate of double that of the rest of the population at 13.9 percent. In the US, that rate is around 14.2%.
Jessica Klein explains the situation in the Huffington Post and tackles some of the stereotypes and criticism that Millennials encounter in the workforce:
We may be unemployed, but we are not lazy. We are a highly entrepreneurial group who are the world’s social media gurus and would rather wear jeans and flip flops to work than a pair of $600 heels. We are more likely to check out a store that a friend has checked-in at, we believe our laptop is way more informational and important than a textbook, and we’d rather take a pay-cut than stick to a 9-5 gig at work. We are more concerned about social issues than any financial ones on Wall Street…
Meanwhile, I will continue to defend Millennials against all comers. I believe Millennials are a remarkable generation who care more about things like the planet, work life balance, helping others, and changing the world. The people I meet who make up my generation inspire me rather than cause me to despair. If only more of us weren’t in such dead end jobs or weren’t suffering in the doldrums of unemployment.
Do you want to see what Generation Y is really made of? Give us a chance. You might find us a little different or think that we spend too much time using apps that you’ve never heard of but we’re hardworking and ambitious. We want to learn but we also want to feel respected for what we can offer. We might take control of our careers in ways you never did at our age but that’s because we’ve watched our parents be laid off from companies where they worked for decades. In fact, we won’t act like you did when you were our age in most aspects of our life because we’re not you and we were raised under different circumstances. But we want to do a good job.
Is Gen Y the Lazy Generation? Nope. The only people who are lazy are those writing articles claiming we are.