Millennials: Not Lazy, but Confused about the Meaning of “Work”

The venerable Rod Dreher calls my attention to this piece which he calls “the ultimate millennial whine”. I think that Dreher is correct when he writes: “I’ve had great bosses, and I’ve had not-so-great bosses. Sometimes, you just have to suck it up and pay your dues until something better comes along. Sounds to me like in a time of high unemployment for his demographic, a special snowflake got a plum job, but left because he was unable to suck it up.” But the HuffPo author’s inability to suck it up is what is most revealing.

Only toward the end is there any sense that the author feels any obligations that go beyond satisfying himself:

The third party company that contracted me is furious because I’ve jeopardized their relationship with Apple, and of course they feel that I’ve acted highly unprofessionally by walking out. I’m not really proud of myself for doing that, and I do feel terrible for destroying the long relationship I had with the recruiter who helped me land the interview.

In other words, he is not going to do what he probably would have promised them he would do six months before; he is not even going to give two weeks’ notice. But he is going to feel appropriately guilty about what he did.

In all fairness, Apple appears to feel as little obligation to him as he does to it: He is a contract worker, not an employee. And there are probably thousands of people like him at Apple whose services can be terminated at a moment’s notice. But that is a question which a might be raised in another article. In this case, we see another example of someone who not only lacks dedication to the company that he works for but the trade that he represents.

As Dreher points out, the last note at the end, where the author solicits work from other employers who have “cool” positions in design, sounds prima donna-ish. He never appeared to learn that sometimes work is actually, well, work. Sometimes you do really have to appreciate the weekends. And, even if your boss does hurt your feelings a little bit, he probably doesn’t talk to you like this.

The country, the government and the people who were in charge of both might have converged to give millennials a raw deal, but what might hurt them more in the long run is a notion that their parents, friends and teachers reinforced from childhood through college: they were failures if they didn’t enjoy what they were doing. Sometimes fulfilling your obligations is more important than being satisfied 365 days of the year that your contract lasts; those other designers associated with his third party contractor—the ones who will lose opportunities at Apple because of him—would probably have appreciated it.

But the author is not unique among millennials. He believed that what you do for a living is not about using your talents or building and maintaining relationships in a community based on value but extending beyond that; he believed that his job was about his own satisfaction. Given how often millennials have been told this, his views are not surprising.

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