How Not to Be “That” Millennial in The Workplace

As I was scrolling through Twitter the other day, there it was trending: What % Millennial Stereotype Are You? The popular BuzzFeed Quiz purported to tell you, in Millennial terms, just how “entitled” you ranked.

That “e” word seems to be universal in defining the Millennial stereotype, along with the idea that we’re consumed by technology, expect a gold medal just for showing up, and are selfie-snapping narcissists. But when it comes to the workplace and vacation, the research actually shows that Millennials’ professional identities are practically the polar opposite of entitled: we’re the largest generation of work martyrs.

More than four in ten (43%) of work martyrs are Millennials, compared to 29 percent of overall respondents in Project: Time Off’s most recent research study. What’s worse, we want to be seen this way by both our boss and our colleagues, far more than Boomers and GenXers. In a way, it makes sense. Our generation’s workplace debut was greeted by the great recession and compounded by student debt. When we got a job, we hung on tight and we have yet to loosen that grip.

Work martyr behavior is just as detrimental to our professional reputations, personal lives, and workplaces as the entitled stereotype. As America’s youngest professional generation moves up in the ranks and begins to increasingly shape the future of the workplace (fact: 28% of Millennials already serve in management roles), we should be making an effort not to be “that” Millennial, the work martyr, in the office. 

Here are three ways we can stop behaving like work martyrs: 

1. Give the vacation shaming a rest.
It’s bad enough that you feel guilty about taking a vacation, but do you have to drag everyone down with you? Alamo Rent A Car found that Millennials are not only more likely to feel a sense of shame for taking a vacation themselves, but they’re also significantly more likely than their older colleagues (42%, compared to 24%) to shame fellow co-workers for taking time off. Moreover, Millennials are #sorrynotsorry about vacation shaming: 42% say they’re at least somewhat serious about it. Don’t be that guy, Millennials. Next time your coworker says they’re taking time off, encourage them, ask some friendly questions about what they’re most excited to do over vacation, and then vacation proudly yourself.

2. Stop bragging about being a workaholic.
Quick, what’d you do last weekend? Did you just humblebrag about how you logged some work hours on a Saturday? You’re not earning any brownie points for this one. Not only are you not giving yourself a chance to rest and recharge (which if you’re human, and I assume you are, you need), but you’re setting a bad example. Seven in ten Millennials say they hear nothing, negative, or mixed messages from their company about taking time off. Take a lead in changing the narrative by starting to talk openly about downtime. Sharing about how you benefited from a weekend off is a small step in the right direction towards ending the culture of silence around taking time off. 

3. Be aware of when it is and isn’t appropriate to check in with work.
I admit I’m guilty as charged when it comes to checking my phone at the dinner table from time to time. But the belief that you have to always be on is another self-inflicted, detrimental work martyr habit. Work martyrs are twice as likely to (49%, compared to 25 of all workers) to say their company expects them to check in on vacation or are unsure of their company’s expectations. By pressuring yourself to constantly be in work-mode, you miss out on the benefits of time off, like increased productivity, creativity, and less stress. Practice unplugging at specific times during the work week, and you won’t find it as difficult to do so when you go on vacation.

By shedding those work martyr tendencies, you’ll not only set a good example for co-workers and help create a positive vacation culture, but you’ll never have to fear being called one of “those” Millennials again.

September 26, 2016