Each new generation gets slammed when it first comes to work. Generation Xers were called "Slackers." Boomers were labeled "lazy hippies" and the "Me, Me, Me" generation. When Millennials came to work a decade ago, they were called "Trophy Kids," a reference to entitlement and unearned rewards.
That was then. This is now. Nearly half the workforce is Millennial, and more than 25% of them are managers. Millennials have outgrown their bad rep—and with a vengeance. They seem to be emerging as the new workaholics.
Work Martyrs and Vacation Shaming
New studies reveal that 20-somethings often see themselves, and proudly so, as work martyrs. Vacation is a perfect example. One in four Millennials forfeits vacation days they’re earned, and 34% say they work every day they’re on vacation.
57% of Millennials feel ashamed for taking or even planning a vacation.
They even spread the shame around. Millennials are twice as likely as Gen Xers to make fun of colleagues who take vacation: 42% of under-35 workers admit doing so. And this kidding is serious. Four in 10 Millennials say they are somewhat or very serious in their vacation-shaming. Only two in 10 older workers say they are serious when they razz co-workers who take a vaca.
Obviously, Millennials feel high tension around being seen as lazy at work. That jives with research that shows 20-somethings obsess about work more than other generations. What gives here? Where did those Trophy Kids go?
They became fierce competitors, for one thing. While growing up, Millennials where constantly urged to hit numbers—annual test scores, hours practiced, criteria for admission, social media friends and likes. For this generation, success has been measured by data—highly visible data. This drives Millennials to acheive and sometimes overwork.
More Net. Less Vacation.
The Internet is part of this phenomenon. Using technology, Millennials went beyond work-life balance to create work-life integration: work and life both at once. They grew up with cell phones and computers, so they work from everywhere. Ms have never really left a physical workspace and said, "I’m done for the day."
This fits with national trends. Millennials entered the workplace during a national period of vacation decline. In 2000, after decades of using 20 days of vacation annually, US workers started using fewer. Last year the average was down to 16 days. That drop corresponds perfectly with the growth of the Internet. More net, less vacation.
2008 and Beyond
Economic uncertainty is a big factor, too. The crash of 2008 may have shaped this generation more deeply than anyone anticipated. Millions of Millennials were unemployed or under-employed during the Great Recession. The jokes about sleeping on parents’ couches were rooted in fact. More adult children lived with their parents during recent years than at any time since the Great Depression.
Job insecurity took hold among this generation. Millennials are at least twice as likely as Boomers to say they are afraid of losing their jobs. They worry more about what the boss thinks of them, and they want to show complete dedication. The result? Work martyrs and vacation shame.
Ironic, isn’t it? The generation labeled as coddled may turn out to be the hardest working of us all.
Are you a Millennial who hesitates to take vacation? Join the conversation! Tweet us at @AmyLynchGenEdge and don’T forget to add your #generation!
Amy Lynch works with companies that want to Harness the Power of Gen IQ: Generational Intelligence. She has spoken to hundreds of groups, from MTV and Comcast to Boeing, J&J and the staff of the U.S. Senate. Contact Amy about your next event.
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