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Millennials v. Job Fatigue

Updated: Jan 26, 2021

“They have no loyalty,” my boss tells me as she drives us to a job fair at the Oregon Convention Center, where my company will be interviewing hopeful graduates on the spot. “They’re so entitled! They get out of college and jump from one job to another - they claim it's because they’re tired and not professionally stimulated enough. And then they wonder why we don’t hire them.” We arrive at the event and hop out of the car. “Now let’s figure out who we can replace our intern with.”

She’s talking about Millennials, the generation most despised by Boomers. My boss – at the time of this interaction – was a Boomer. She once hired an Investment Consultant to speak to our company on retirement plans, only for him to tell all the Millennials in the room that he doesn’t expect us to understand what he’s talking about and that he knows it doesn’t matter anyway because we have no sense of financial independence. To put it bluntly: employers think it’s a waste of time to hire and invest in us.

But do Millennials truly get tired of jobs quickly, or are we simply getting tired of a job market that hasn’t yet adapted to the way we learn, function, and work? Instead of forgoing loyalty, are we simply fed-up with the way we’re treated by our Boomer bosses? Of course, being tired and disloyal is a real possibility that employers have always been weary of, but is our generation really defined by an exponential increase in these behaviors?

Sometimes being tired of your job is an aspect of work. Sometimes it’s an indicator that you need to move on. Most millennials misinterpret their feelings of the former as the latter. You can snap out of that thinking with understanding what it looks like, how to combat it, and juxtaposing it with a job you’ve truly outgrown.

The Problem.

Six out of every 10 Millennials are open to leaving their company at any given moment, according to an analysis of 30 employment studies. It’s not surprising, then, to realize that 71% of Millennials don’t feel engaged at work, a fact that is highly related to why we are considered the generation most likely to job hop or get burnt out of our current position. Let's take a look at why this happens:

1. The Need To Feel Energized In The Workplace. In 2013, the Council of Economic Advisors under President Barack Obama found that 47% of Millennials in the United States held at least a Bachelor's Degree, an astounding fact that some argue is imperative when looking at job fatigue. Because Millennials are relatively new to the workforce - compared with their Generation X and Baby Boomer counterparts - they are more likely to contrast their initial job experience with their university experience. However, this is a mistake. In university, one fills their day with courses in different buildings, organization meetings around campus, traveling with friends during breaks, and much more. University is filled with a wide range of activities where no two days are the same, keeping Millennials stimulated and energized to get through the day. Whereas in the workforce, you're 86% likely to get stuck at a job sitting for 9 hours each day, receiving accumulative break time of one full hour if you're lucky. Imagine doing this every day. Going from running around completing new and interesting tasks each day to doing the same monotonous work with no flexibility are entirely different activities. It's no wonder Millennials feel fatigued at their job and long for energizing activities. Maybe it's also because researchers have found that working a desk job with sedentary behavior will increase your likelihood of dying early by twofold. People who went to and completed university are most likely over-achievers and made the most of their education - so why can't they do the same with their work? Because sitting down manipulating spreadsheets to complete deadlines for a manager is not energizing. We need Quality Work, Learning Opportunities, and Valued Outputs before we feel Purpose.

2. The Inability to Separate Work and Purpose. You might have noticed we haven't mentioned the words 'money' or 'paycheck' yet. That's because Millennials aren't measuring their work output in terms of financial gains: 75% of them would take a pay-cut if it meant working for a socially-responsible company, compared to the U.S. average of 55%. Millennials want purpose, even if that means they're unwilling to separate a paycheck from doing what's right. The good about this reality is that Millennials are more likely to be loyal to companies that align with their views and make them feel like they have a sense of purpose in this world. The bad equates to why we're writing this article in the first place: Millennials are more likely to reach job fatigue in a company that doesn't provide them with a sense of purpose, leading to more burnout and job hopping. It's much easier for Boomers to chalk Millennials' job-hopping up to laziness, but it takes numbers to prove that it's actually because employers aren't as socially conscience as the upcoming generations, and don't provide the purposeful activities needed to keep their workforce happy. In fact, 65% of Millennials believe that the point of employers' existence is to improve society opposed to generating profit, and that their workplace should be more than just that: it should be a place where they can incorporate their personal purpose to help the world. It might be odd to hear that Millennials are trying to break down the pillars that erect the sacred temple of work-life balance, but it's not to say that we believe work weeks should shoot back up to 80 hours. Instead, it's to say that what we want is to leave the workforce and the world a little better than the way we found it - and we can't do that if we're working half of our waking hours away at a desk.

3. The Demands of The Workforce Need To Change To Fit Advancement. When asked, "How long is the U.S. work week?" many of us will answer 40 hours. If this were true, then how come 73% of working Millennials report working more than 40 hours per week, with a significant portion of them working more than 50 hours per week? Before we can battle the 40-hour work week, we first need to debunk the myth that it exists in the first place. Compared to 17% of Boomers, 24% of Millennials are likely to forfeit their unused vacation hours not only because they want to prove their devotion to their employer, but also due to fear that no one will be able to work their job while they're gone. In fact, 59% of those Millennials simply "felt ashamed" when they used their allotted vacation hours. The Harvard Business Review believes this places Millennials in the realm of "Employee Martyrdom" - whether for good or for worse - opposed to the term Boomers love to use: Lazy. However, this realm doesn't come without its employer demands and lack of recognition. Regardless of how hard Millennials work, less than 2% of them feel they have a manager that appreciates them and encourages their career advancement / professional development. Millennials are the generation who expect the most out of company advancement, whether or not Boomers want to categorize that as entitlement. Yet, we are also the generation most met with demands that lead to us becoming overworked and burnt out before that career advancement can be recognized. Employers make it easy for us to job hop for better opportunities, whether they want to see that as their problem or ours.

We are the generation most likely to take a pay-cut, most likely to work more than 40 hours a week, and most likely to work through vacation hours. Because of this, we have begun to develop our own demands: more energizing responsibilities in the workplace, a sense of purpose both personally and company-wide, and a major increase in career advancement that matches the workforce demands.

The Solution.

We'll take a step away from all the research and data to discuss ways we believe you can recognize job fatigue and convince your employer to alleviate that seemingly inevitable state of burnout that leads to the infamous Millennial Job Hop.

The most important evaluation an employee can make is to recognize the difference between job fatigue and when you’ve outgrown a job. Changing jobs should be encouraged and praised when you leave due to growth, but sometimes Millennials perceive a bump in the road as a sign that everything is wrong. Finding the line between job fatigue and professional growth is a task meant for you and your employer, but we have outlined a few measures you can take to distinguish one from the other.

Burnout Situations & What You Can Do As An Employee:

1. Becoming frustrated when that new job feel wears off. It will happen at some point, but don’t be concerned. Adopting a routine is good and will help you grow into your new job. Patience and pain accompany growth.

2. Your role and/or your responsibilities are below your pay grade or education level. If you were hired to code a website but have ended up running the company's Twitter account, you need to have a conversation with your employer. Adding tasks to your workload that are not in your job description because you are the ‘resident Millennial’ is wrong.

3. You stop learning / you have nothing left to learn. If you have started to feel stagnant in your job, ask your employer for more responsibility, such as a task the job directly above you is responsible for. You can start a new path to a promotion - just make sure you have something left to learn.

4. Your manager isn't paying attention to you or your demands. The most important thing between an employee and an employer is trust. When an employer says they will fight for you, they better mean it. If you don’t believe them or they haven’t held up promises in the past, it might be time to look for a new job. Your needs are important and you must make them known.

5. You need to be reenergized / you do not find purpose in your work. The difference between work and a career is understanding what your optimal potential is and striving every single day to reach it. If that is hindered by your job every day, you are not getting what you need out of the experience. Find something to work for every single day; when you can no longer do that, it's time to decide whether or not to move on.

Take these situations and use them in your own job to determine which you might be experiencing. Doing this will ensure you are reaching your full potential. Companies are not going to get everything right, but that is why they have you: to partner alongside them and be better together.

From an employer’s standpoint, there is no one-size-fits-all solution. Millennials are diverse and unique individuals and, more importantly for the employer, we know we are diverse and unique. We can tell when you are trying and when you are not. Adding a ping pong table in the break room is not trying, but talking to us about our goals and ambitions in the company is trying. We need to be heard and for an employer that must be step one. Beyond that we have listed a few ways you can begin to nurture that lasting Millennial employee.

What You Can Do As An Employer:

1. Find new learning tracks to boost your employee's skills. Engagement is key. We thrive when we are good at something and will work to become an expert. Leading us there will create a better employee and more skills at your disposal.

2. Give them tasks where it is encouraged to fail. It is hard for us to fail because we take things so personally. If we know we are free to fail, we learn faster and become confident in our work.

3. Switch it up one day and have them work on a completely new aspect of the job. Knowing how the company runs outside of our role increases our knowledge of the business, making us better employees while building our interest and ensuring we stick around.

4. Show them how they can be better. As an employer, you were once in our shoes. While we may think and react differently than you, hearing how you climbed the corporate ladder will inspire us to achieve goals the same way you did.

5. Connect with them in a meaningful way because their success is your success. Being a boss is very important but being the right type of boss is necessary. Millennials are their best selves at the office when they feel they are working for something and with someone. Show them you believe in them and equip them with the right tools and environment. With this, you can count on us to deliver for you all because you made an effort.

Ultimately, optimizing the work of Millennials falls on the shoulders of both the employee and the employer. Adjusting to this switch in the workforce will be tough, but companies and employees who recognize Millennial job fatigue and how to combat it will be better off. Long past are the days when companies can afford to ignore or brush off how Millennials work and for Millennials to not understand their workplace potential.

This post is in collaboration with Austin Robinson. Check out more of his work here:

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