I finally realized that I am a millennial. At 29, I thought I was too old to be considered a millennial. It was only a few years ago that I heard the term millennial. Over the last few years, I’ve heard the question, “Do  Millennials work hard?”

I did some research, and I found a few articles that broke down the age brackets for Millennials, Gen X-ers and Baby Boomers. In this post, I will share where I received my work ethic from, my experience working with millennials, and what the research says about millennials’ work ethic.

Generational Breakdown



Another source, The Center for Generational Kinetics, has the following breakdowns and includes Centennials:

  • iGen, Gen Z or Centennials: Born 1996 and later
  • Millennials or Gen Y: Born 1977 to 1995
  • Generation X: Born 1965 to 1976
  • Baby Boomers: Born 1946 to 1964
  • Traditionalists or Silent Generation: Born 1945 and before

Growing up in small-town Wisconsin

I like to think that I work hard. However, I believe most Gen Xer’s and Baby Booms don’t think Millennials work hard. Millennials get this negative connotation for their work ethic because they are constantly on their phones, they don’t have a consistent work schedule, and they do things differently than Gen x-er’s and baby boomers.

I learned the meaning of hard work from my dad. My dad worked hard to be able to provide for our family, often working overtime (and he still does to this day). Unfortunately, my dad wasn’t given the same advice he and my mom gave me about continuing my education beyond high school.

My dad’s parents told him to go directly into the workforce, and that is what he did. Eventually, my dad continued working different jobs and he was able to work hard to get into a skilled position.

My dad’s hard-work ethic didn’t stop once he got home. As part of the family, I learned how to do all of the chores around the house with dad (from mowing the lawn to laundry and the dishes.) Before I was able to go out with my friends, I had to ensure I finished all of my chores.

My experience working with Millennials

My work experience includes serving jobs and audio visual jobs during college. Since graduating college, I’ve worked in tech. When I ponder the question- Do Millennials work hard? – I think it depends on a few factors.

  • How were they raised? If a millennial didn’t have to work growing up, or if they didn’t have to do chores, they likely have a poor work ethic.
  • Are they challenged? This doesn’t go for Millennials only – everyone that is looking to better themselves wants to be in a job that challenges them so they can improve their skillset. By improving your skillset, you can advance your career and better yourself.
  • How does their management/leadership team treat them?

If a Millennial doesn’t respect their manager, they likely don’t work hard.

In graduate school, I read a great book about the concept of emotional intelligence. The book, written by Daniel Goleman, is called Leadership: The Power of Emotional Intellegence. Goleman discusses the four components that make up emotional intelligence: self-awareness, self-management, empathy, and social skills.

Millennials look for these traits in a leader/manager. Many of the Baby Boomers and Gen Xer’s have a pacesetting leadership style – first one in the office in the morning and the last one to leave at night.

From my experience, what can happen with this pacesetting type work ethic is wasted hours in the office twiddling your thumbs so that you “look busy.” Instead, millennials rather get their work done efficiently and effectively. Then, they can spend time doing what they like to outside of work.

What the research says…

I did a good amount of research on millennials and their work ethic. A common theme I distilled from my research regarding millennials is flexibility. Millennials like the ability to have flexible work environment. From being able to work from home if it makes sense, to working an 80-hour work week one week and the next week only putting in 36 hours instead of the “required 40 hours.”

A millennial may get into the office a little later, go to the gym over their lunch break, and still leave at the normal 5 o’clock when other coworkers leave. However, because they utilize technology to the fullest, they are up at night working on their cellphones or laptops to ensure they are getting the tasks done that they need to complete.

Some keywords I found to describe Millennials include: ambitious, multitasking, tenacity and entrepreneurial. They are looking for work that is challenging, but flexible. Millennials want strong leaders that they can learn from, but not someone that is demanding and disrespectful. A social, upbeat work environment is preferred over the “cubicle farm of silence.”

What is your experience working with Millennials?

Do you think Millennials are hard-working?