Our national obsession with generations continues and at the core of that obsession is Millennials. In some research that recently passed my radar, Millennials apparently think they are most likely to be what is called “work martyrs.”
See the graphic I saw displayed on a news channel last week before heading into my last day of work before vacation:
You’ll have to forgive the fact that the headline at the bottom misinterpreted the study to conclude that Millennials are the hardest workers, and ignores the fact that the study was conducted 10 months ago. The best I can conclude was the news station that shared this story wanted to share something that seemed relevant for this time of year when people are taking vacation/time-off from work.
As simple as the chart is, an initial correlation should emerge immediately. If it doesn’t, that’s okay. Notice that the older someone is, the less likely they are to believe they are a “work martyr.” It just isn’t labeled by age groups, but by generations instead (Chart could have easily been labeled as: 19 to 35, 36 to 51, 52 to 70).
So what is a “work martyr?” According to this study’s definition…The belief that it is difficult to take vacation because:
- No one else at my company can do the work while I’m away.
- I want to show complete dedication to my company and job.
- I don’t want others to think I am replaceable.
- I feel guilty for using my paid time off.
Like any nerd in research would do, I reviewed the study conducted. It’s not as profound as one may believe. You can check it out for yourself. They actually present a chart on the site that indicates people won’t be taking vacation by the year 2046. The best some other analysts and myself could conclude is that they used an incredibly simple linear regression based on only three years of data collected.
Here’s my hypothesis: Younger workers feel like “work martyrs,” not Millennials; better yet, younger workers have always felt like “work martyrs.”
To think this is something Millennials have only recently experienced is ludicrous. The key here is that generations are defined by years of birth (arbitrarily set years to be honest), which helps us establish age ranges. To presume this is only a generational feeling is to presume that when Gen Xers and Boomers were between the ages of 19 and 35 that they didn’t feel the same as Millennials feel now. It also presumes that Millennials won’t feel the same way Gen Xers feel now when they are between the ages of 36 and 51. My lack of sympathy for Millennials isn’t because of the my clear bias against this generational obsession; it’s because I remember when I was in my entry level position at the age of 22, working to accrue my limited 10 days, covering other people’s time to reinforce my value as an employee, and forgoing vacation time to ensure I had more time to take the next year and beyond.
Three key elements are likely at play here: Management hierarchy, career confidence, and time availability.
These elements have always been at play; they are not new generational dynamics at play. As the saying goes “s**t rolls downhill” and younger workers tend to be at the bottom of those hills. Of course, maybe some cosmic shift will take place and change the fundamentals of workplace economics where college graduates are rushed into CEO and presidential positions and succession planning means demotions, reductions in salaries and the loss of vacation time.
The fact is that younger workers are less likely to:
- be in management…who usually gets the authority to pick and choose vacation time before subordinates (management hierarchy),
- have subordinates to cover for them while they are gone (career confidence),
- and have been around longer and have earned more vacation time to take (time availability).
I mean really, it’s that simple.
Existing economic conditions only adds an extra layer of pressure to avoid taking time and putting one’s career at risk. I hate to break it to Millennials, but they are not the first young workforce generation to have the stress about keeping their jobs. Gen Xers faced three recessions (34 months in total) while they were between the ages of 19 and 35…including the last great recession. Boomers faced five recessions (57 months in total) when they were between the ages of 19 and 35.
What’s the lesson here? Don’t be surprised by everything you see in research. In this case, the research was a little pandering and a little trendy (overuse of generations and Millennials in the news), but nothing anyone that hasn’t had years of workforce experience didn’t already know.