Millennial Priorities: Why we aren't just lazy

I often hear people complain about how lazy millennials are at work.  As a millennial myself, I have watched my peers for quite some time and I can't help but think we aren't lazy, only misunderstood.  I believe the driving force for our work behavior can be summed up in this quote:


“We want our life to match our priorities. That means we value a career that gives us the freedom to achieve our goals and balance importance so we can best achieve complete wellness and fulfillment.”


This statement explains why so many millennials are choosing freelancing, entrepreneurship or digital nomading as alternative career structures. While this may seem completely backwards, it really isn't. Things like family, travel and health are extremely important to us. If the career you're offering us doesn't leave room for us to incorporate these things into our everyday life, then we aren't going to settle for it.

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Generations before us have lived by the code that says, “Work hard where you're at and eventually you will make it to the top.”


Our generation says, “If you don't like it, change it.”


Why should we waste the bulk of our life working towards something pointless and unfulfilling? If the job we possess keeps us away from our family and requires our health to take a toll, we simply won't put up with it. Almost all of us have degrees and that means options. We have always been told that we can be anything we want to be when we grow up, and we believe that, even now that we are grown up.


Perhaps that is why we never hesitate to leave a job, jump ship or change locations when things become less than idealistic. So yes, we are always chasing after an idealistic job with freedom to focus on our priorities.


Because we are also incredibly optimistic, we aren't as afraid of failure as others before us have been. Start an online business? Why not give it a try! Begin a recycling program at work? Why not! We are a generation that cultivates a “can do” attitude. We will do what it takes to get where we want, and that means not sticking out a decent job just because it pays well or looks good on paper.


So why are we sometimes seen as lazy at work?


The secret goes back to our priorities. We are passionate, optimistic and hard-working on things that we care about personally. We aren't going to work our tail off on a project we don't understand or don't care about. Remember, we want purpose and meaning in our everyday lives, not just a paycheck.

Here are some ideas on how you can tap into our priorities in order to create a more dedicated and engaged employee:

  • Try giving us a sense of purpose and meaning in our job description. Allow us the freedom to take care of our priorities first, and our career will follow up quickly behind. We have to feel fulfilled in order to perform, and then we want a pat on the back for our hard work. It's the same model we've been taught in school all these years and now it's time for the workplace to bend towards this model as well.
  • Think about starting a employee volunteer program so we can do community service a couple of times a month and be rewarded for it.
  • Provide extra time for us to enjoy our families. Hold an event on campus where we can invite our loved ones to our office for a few hours. Hold a family luncheon for employees.
  • Allow us time off so we can travel and experience the world outside of our office. Not only will we come back refreshed but we will likely also have some new ideas about how to perform at work.
  • Understand that we are all about professional development and continuing our education.  What job training conferences can you send your millennial workers to?  Is there a tech class that would benefit your business?  Try sending a millennial to learn this new skill and then have them teach their coworkers.

The generational gap is nothing more than learning to be understanding and open to each other's differences and needs.  Try to open yourself to this new generation of workers.