The Millennial Myth

4 min read

I read it again recently: "Today's young workers are so entitled, they just want a big corner office with no hard work and offer no loyalty."

Really, that's as wrong as it gets. It's a sentiment that the media has turned the reverb all the way up on (again) because we have a new catchment group to target in the last 5 years or so: "Millennials."

How do I know it's wrong? I'm 37, and started working when I was 14 in the same industry that I'm in now, and I've been hearing it for 23 years. When I started it was "Gen X," then it was "Gen Y," then it died down because nobody knew what to call the group after "Gen Y" - but when those who are a decade younger than me got tagged with "Millennial," well, back to the vicious circle.

I'll work backwards on the myth, though, to break it down.

First, the "no loyalty" attribute. Has anyone paid attention to corporate America in the last three decades? Bean counters cut top talent because retention is too expensive. They outsource to other countries, or insource (especially in my industry) by paying for H1-B workers with the corporate cry of "There's no equable talent!" Incorrect, there's no equable **cheap** talent because the profit margin is more important than the people a company hires.

There's no loyalty to slave drivers, the managers that expect their employees to work 70 hour work weeks, no matter what, and guilt trip anyone who takes time off - for any reason.

There's no loyalty to companies that low-ball offers to desperate grads. If a kid comes in and needs a job, has spunk, intelligence, and a need to start paying those college loans - and also doesn't even think about negotiating the salary they're offered, because living off ramen for four more years sucks less than negative marks on their credit score. Then they leave when someone like me walks in to poach them, because they've been given no reason to stay.

There's no loyalty to companies that have absolutely axed all possible health benefits except for those that are federally mandated. What is that? $2000 deductible AND a $100 co-pay for visits? You bet they don't care about that, especially when they're ready to start families. They'll plan two years out to take a lower paying job with benefits that don't suck.

There's no loyalty to companies that say the standard is "one week of vacation... after the first year." To be honest, I think it's chintzy to gouge people at two weeks of vacation. Even worse - two weeks of "PTO" where your sick time and vacation is lumped in to one bucket.

Those aren't all the problems, but these days they're often at least one and often more of the above.

So how about that "No hard work" comment? In more than two decades, I've been technical, and I've been managerial, and I've been a blend of both. I've never had a job - ever - where I'm not on some form of an on-call rotation. I'd almost guarantee that in my industry (tech) that's fairly true across the board. It's an on-demand world, and we're on-demand for our clients as much as our vendors are on-demand for us.

The people that work for me now are dedicated, intelligent, and work their asses off. The younger ones hit about 45 hours and call it good, unless they're on-call or there's crunch time. Then they'll hit those 70+ hour weeks like nobody's business, and as soon as the demand is gone, they drop back to their normal work regimen.

What else? They're continuous learners; they have to be. Every week there's a new app, new service, new way to do something and they've got to keep up or get left behind. So they just do it naturally, put in that after-hours time to learn new stuff and stay relevant. Why else are they using Khan Academy on the train, or practicing with DuoLingo on the weekends?

They want the big corner office? Well sure, some of them do. Some of them will get it, too. In every generation, there are lazy, inept people who find a way to get rewarded. In every generation, there are hard working, driven individuals that deserve what they go out and earn. And there's every combination thereof.

This generation - and whatever they're calling my generation, now - has seen the value of ingenuity, hard work, innovation, and dedication pay off more than any generation that I know of. Think about the tools you use on a daily basis in the form of apps, websites, or services. How many of those exist solely because of some innovative, hard working young punk?

So here's my commentary on your myth: Shut your trap, you don't know what you're talking about. While you're running your mouth, though, my team ("Millenials" and all) are hard at work making sure our clients get the best service we can offer, and I'll do everything make sure that they don't burn out, are properly rewarded for their work, and that it's prohibitively expensive to poach them.

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Stephen Sadowski

Leader focusing on quality, delivery, technical debt management, and leadership education about DevOps and SRE practices