Skip to main content

I was mortified recently to discover that I am a millennial. I always thought of millennials as kids, but it turns out that millennials (also known as Generation Y) are simply people born between the early 1980s and mid-1990s. That means my little sisters are indeed millennials (and shits), but so am I.

Much has been said about how to work with millennials, how to avoid working with millennials, the shifting work ethic (or lack thereof) in a new generation; a general sense of entitlement, laziness, apathy, fondness of smashed avocado … I’ve heard it all, agreed with some of it, but for the most part rolled my eyes. Complaining about young people is in itself a generational rite of passage, right? I don’t think you can call yourself an adult without first grumbling about “kids these days” – but with the oldest of millennials now in their mid-30s, they’re not exactly kids.

The most common complaints we hear attributed to millennials include tardiness, “attitude”, a big fat sense of entitlement, short attention span and, more and more, a general aversion millennial6to work. Lately, an odd little movement has swept through social media, where people tag themselves in self-deprecating memes and hit Share with a little “lololol if this isn’t me!” added in for good measure. If feedback from hiring managers is anything to go by, this has graduated from Facebook to now be a real workplace issue. This week alone I’ve heard from four recruitment managers struggling with staff who talk a good talk, but fail to deliver and then shrug any feedback off. More than that, “They actually seem proud to cruise. I know they can do the work, because when it becomes a disciplinary issue, they do – for just long enough to ease the pressure, then as soon as we back off, they return to cruise mode. What the hell are we meant to do?!”

There millennial4are so many potential contributing factors to one’s performance, I don’t know how quickly I would blame birth year alone. But I’d be lying if I said I haven’t noticed it too. It’s not widespread, nor is it a majority – but it’s enough to be noticeable. I see it with candidates: there is a certain demographic who no-show to interviews, or breeze in late with zero apology. Expect you to stick your neck out actively marketing them, because of course none of the roles you’re working on are good enough, but can’t do even the most basic courtesy of sending an updated CV. “It’s all on my LinkedIn, hun.”

Is this new? Is it any different to poor work ethic demonstrated by previous generations? It feels different, but then, so does everything. The way we work now is entirely different to how we did 20 or 30 years ago. Can we really call it a “Millennial” thing? I’m sure we’ve always had dicks in the workplace. Are the dicks of today that different?

Natasha Foster

Recruitment Consultant at New Zealand firm Rice Consulting, shaking things up in the HR world. Photographer on the side, Te Reo student, rock climber and learner surfer. Most happy off the grid.