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I never thought I’d say this, but are Millennials the new Boomers?
8 years ago when I started this blog, Boomers were the ones telling us that avocado toast was the reason we couldn’t afford to buy a house and that our lazy, entitled selfies and social media obsession were killing our work ethic and the reason our jobs were unstable. This led to viral trend of exasperated Millennials rolling our eyes and responding with “OK Boomer”. But now, it’s us who are complaining about Gen Z.
Now that Millennials like me have reached our late 30s and early 40s, those who are in management are complaining about their Gen Z subordinates. When asked what she thought of “Lazy Girl Jobs“, Andrea, an early forties Millennial manager had this to say.
“When I was working for someone, it was like, you’re at the beck and call of your boss. You’re a workhorse, and you have that ‘Yes, Sir!’ mentality, which I know is kind of crazy but you wanted to look good for your boss,”
“If my boss calls me, I pick up the phone…If my boss wants to talk at 1 o’clock and I already have a meeting then, I’ll move it. That’s just my respect and responsibility toward someone I work for.”
“[With Gen Z], It’s almost like I have to work around their schedule. I apologetically almost can’t tell them that no, this is a mandatory meeting.”
“There’s no loyalty to the employer and that’s really hard. I have to almost tiptoe around these individuals because I want to make sure they’re happy, but this is actually absurd…there’s zero shame or apology,” Andrea says. “You have to live by their boundaries, and you kind of have to eat it, because at the end of the day, when I say I need something they’ll get it done.” It just might be at 2 a.m., or sent from the European country where they’ve decided — without asking permission — to work remotely for the summer. (An actual thing that happened.)”
Now compare this to what Boomers said about Millennials years ago:
“Baby Boomers are loyal to the companies they work for. They want to trust their employers and will not move companies as quickly as either X-ers or Millennials.”
“[Millennials] are not concerned about job-hopping. They will quit now and find that job later – and if that doesn’t work out they can always count on their helicopter parents for support.”
Eerie, isn’t it? Before I quit my last job, I remember working for another company that lost 90% of the employees they hired from my university after only a year because they were making them work from 8-9pm most days, while being on call for tech issues at night. Many of my fellow alumni described the experience as “being under house arrest” because they never had a life outside of work. After the mass exodus, the company decided to fix the problem, not by providing a better work environment, but by blacklisting students from my university because they’re “not loyal”.
And yet Millennial bosses are now using the exact same phrase to describe Gen Z. Have we lost our minds? Are we the new Boomers? Or are Gen Z *GASP* simply lazier than Millennials?
Now that the pandemic has made remote work possible, Gen Z wants to have their cake and eat it too. It’s not enough to get a job to pay the bills. Said job needs to give them fulfillment and the flexibility to do what they want to do.
This is especially true in how Gen Z sees remote work and travel compared to Millennials. Back in 2015, when we first went nomadic, it was rare to quit your job and travel. Digital nomads were seen are weirdos who will ultimately blow all their money on the road and have to crawl back to their North American employers after the money runs out and beg for their jobs back. The number of digital nomad visas was a big fat zero. Now there are over 40+ countries offering digital nomad visas and it’s no longer taboo to be a nomad. As a result, Gen Z workers are burning out after working as little as 9 months (compared to our 9 years), and travelling for 5-10 years with as little as $10,000 in savings while people in the FIRE community panic about “only have $588K” in their portfolio before quitting their jobs to travel.
That being said, it’s hard to argue that Gen Z has a weaker work ethic than Millennials, since Andrea the Millennial manager said that her Gen Z subordinates “get the work done”, even if it’s at 2am in the morning from another time zone. So then, who cares how or where they work from, as long as they produce quality work? They aren’t lazier or “phoning it in”. That’s just a difference in opinion about work styles.
Another theory is that Millennials are now entering a later in stage of life when we are saddled with mortgage debt and kids. We may just be jealous of Gen Z who are still in their 20s and have more freedom because they aren’t tied down with as many responsibilities as us. They don’t have parents in their 70s and 80s who need to be taken care of, a mortgage that’s crushing the life out of them, and kids to wrangle.
While it might be true that Millennials have aged and have more responsibilities than we used to, we’re still very different from Boomers. Here’s why:
More Politically left leaning
59% of Millennials affiliate with the Democratic Party or lean Democratic, compared with about 50% of Boomers
39% of those aged 25 to 37 have a bachelor’s degree or higher, compared with just a quarter of Baby Boomers.
More in Debt
42% of Millennial families between the ages of 25 and 36 are in student loan debt, compared to 11% of Baby Boomer families
There are 76 million baby boomers, and 28% of them are diverse. The millennials are an even larger group with 87 million, and 44 % are diverse.
So if that’s the case, why have we suddenly turned cranky and are calling Gen Z out for “not being loyal” and saying it’s “absurd” that we need to tiptoe around their schedule?
One reason is that as Millennials gain more experience in the workforce and move up the corporate ladder, they go from individual contributors to managers, and as a result, have more obligations to demand more from their subordinates, in order to make money for the company. That salary and title ain’t free.
Another is as more Millennials start families and choose home ownership, their expenses go up and they become more indebted and tied down to their employers. When you’re younger, you have less responsibilities and more freedom—especially if you’re not dependent on a steady job to be able to pay your mortgage and costly home ownership bills. In fact, according to a Bankrate survey, nearly 2/3 of Millennials home owners regret buying a home:
So, unfortunately, when you’re saddled with debt, you tend to seek more stability (less job hopping) and tend to project that onto your employees and call them “not loyal” for having the freedom to follow better opportunities and demand flexible work situations.
What do you think? Are Millennial the new Boomers? Are Gen Z lazier or is it just due to the life stage they’re in?
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