Monday, May 28, 2018

Millennials Are Lazy?

Here's a rare post on the subject of generations in the workplace.

Recent readers of this blog may not be aware that I cut my blogging teeth on the subject when I hosted (with Jamie Notter) The Hourglass Blog from 2009 to 2012. There, the focus was primarily on Generation X, and our investigative question was primarily on whether and how members of that generation would step into positions of leadership in our society and its organizations as the swelled ranks of Boomers began leaving the workplace.

The Hourglass Blog came to an end for a variety of reasons, but one was clearly how, even in 2012, the focus of all generational conversations in the workplace was increasingly on the Millennials. Indeed, as an Xer myself, I have to admit that I grew a bit frustrated with the never-ending focus on the new slacker generation, especially when questions of leadership of organizations came up. How to deal with those crazy (and lazy) Millennials in the workplace was fair game (to my way of thinking, at least), since they were infiltrating the workforce in greater and greater numbers. But even when questions of leadership came up, the popular conversation seemed to center on whether or not Millenials had (or would ever have) the chops to fill the shoes of all those departing Boomers. As if there wasn't another generation standing between the Boomers and the Millennials that was, in fact, ready to lead -- albeit in a slightly different direction.

Enough. I put that hobby horse to bed in 2012, but now, in 2018, it seems that not much has changed. In a recent business book I read the subject was explored, and again, when it came to searching for people to lead our organizations into the future, the author chose to focus almost entirely on the Millennial generation.

And whenever Millennials are talked about, one particular adjective seems to always be correlated. Lazy. Millennials are lazy.

Are they? I have several Millennials on my small staff of eleven people, and they are far from lazy. In fact, they are among the hardest working people on my team. I have found them to be not just hard-working, but creative, self-starting, ambitious professionals. They want to make a difference for themselves and for the organization they work for. I find myself pulling them back much more frequently than pushing them forward.

So why does this myth of laziness persist? Do older generations still think of Xers as slackers (assuming they think of Xers at all)? That was how Generation X got branded when we first entered the workforce, but I can't imagine that we're still thought of that way. At some point, probably when we starting moving into leadership positions -- that is, when we became bosses instead of an older boss's employee -- the myth of Xers being slackers went away.

Is that what it's going to take for Millennials to lose the reflexive association with laziness? On The Hourglass Blog I wrote a lot about how Generation X was different from Baby Boomers and how those differences would lead to differences in our organizations and our society as Xers moved into leadership positions. I see something similar happening with Millennials.

Are they different from Xers and Boomers? Of course they are. They have a different set of life experiences, and therefore look at things differently and may even define success as something different than their older colleagues. And as they move into positions of leadership, those differences will become more and more normalized. Our organizations will stop viewing Millennials and their sensibilities as the lazy outliers, but rather as the status quo.

And then I personally can't wait to hear what the Millenials think of Generation Z.

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This post first appeared on Eric Lanke's blog, an association executive and author. You can follow him on Twitter @ericlanke or contact him at

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