Not Exactly a News Flash: Study Finds Millennials Deficient in Work Ethic

According to a new report from the consulting group Workplace Options, more than three quarters of Americans surveyed say that the Millennial generation suffers from a lack of work ethic, and almost half believe that Gen Y’s are less engaged in their jobs than older workers.

Not exactly earth shattering, is it?

Vigilant defenders of youth always argue this is an unfair criticism and that mature adults have always complained about the habits and behaviors of youth. Two thousand years ago, Cicero wrote “the youth of Rome are idle, they drink too much wine, their songs make no sense, and they ride their horses too fast in the street.”

But here’s the difference — and it’s a big one. Even Millennials are critical of the work ethic of Millennials.

ALL generations gripe about a lack of work ethic

This same Workplace Options report reveals that more than half of the young workers surveyed believe peers in their age group are less motivated to take on responsibility, and over a third of millennial workers feel their peers are less engaged than their counterparts. And those findings aren’t exactly news shattering, either.

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My new book – Reviving Work Ethic– quotes a 2010 Pew Report where workers of all four generations were asked “what makes your generation unique?”—work ethic was mentioned as a distinctive characteristic by at least 10 percent in the three older generations—Gen X (ages 30 to 45), Baby Boomers (ages 46 to 64), and the Silent Generation (ages 65 and up). That put it among the top five responses for those generations, and it was number one for Baby Boomers. It didn’t make the list for Millennials. Millennials said that what made them unique was technology use, music/pop culture, liberal/­tolerant beliefs, greater intelligence, and fashion/clothes.

So if you find yourself critical of the work habits and work ethic of the new emerging workforce, that doesn’t necessarily mean you’re an old fogy complaining about “those darned kids.” You may, in fact, be a hip 20-something looking to get ahead and feeling frustrated that the dude in the cubical next to you isn’t pulling his weight.

This was originally published on Eric Chester’s Reviving Work Ethic blog. His new book is Reviving Work Ethic: A Leader’s Guide to Ending Entitlement and Restoring Pride in the Emerging Workforce. For copies, visit

Eric Chester is a leading voice in the global dialogue on employee engagement, and building a world-class workplace culture. He's an in-the-trenches researcher on the topic of the millennial mindset, and the dynamics of attracting, managing, motivating and retaining top talent. Chester is a Hall-of-Fame keynote speaker and the author of 4 leadership books including his newly released Amazon #1 Bestseller On Fire at Work: How Great Companies Ignite Passion in their People without Burning Them Out.  Learn more at and follow him at @eric_chester