- The Washington Times - Monday, June 6, 2016

Disgruntled former Yelp employee Talia Jane became the poster child for millennial entitlement when she wrote an open letter to her boss in February complaining about her unfulfilling job and its meager wages.

Terminated less than two hours after publishing the invective, Ms. Jane was castigated by online commenters and pundits as just another example of a spoiled generation whose sky-high expectations are out of tune with reality.

A study recently released by the polling firm Gallup suggests the episode could be a microcosm of a fundamental divide between the purpose millennials expect to derive from their labor compared to their predecessors.

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Conflicts between established firms and recently minted college graduates can be mitigated, the study contends, with a few alterations in how bosses interact with new hires.

One of the survey’s most notable findings is workers in the up-and-coming generation are less engaged in their jobs than previous generations, with 55 percent of millennials reporting they are “checked out” and lack passion and energy for their work.

Just 29 percent report active engagement in their jobs, the lowest figure among the four generations tracked in the survey, which includes Gen Xers, baby boomers and traditionalists.

The study attributes well-documented job-hopping among millennials to the younger generation’s emphasis on finding fulfilling work rather than just high-paying jobs. And their search for meaning at work comes at a cost — about $30.5 billion annually to the U.S. economy, according to the Gallup analysis.

Millennials placed opportunities to learn and grow, quality of management, interest in type of work and opportunities for advancement above income when looking for a new job. Eighty-seven percent said personal development is an important characteristic in a job, and fewer millennials than other generations said they would pursue a different line of work for a raise.

At a 21 percent turnover rate last year, millennials were three times more likely than nonmillennials to report changing jobs, and 60 percent said they were currently open to a change in employment, more than 15 points higher than nonmillennials.

What’s more, millennials apparently thrive on constant communication and interaction. About 44 percent who said they meet with their manager on a regular basis reported being engaged in their work, compared to a 20 percent engagement rate for those who said they do not meet regularly with their manager.

The increased emphasis on jobs with meaning and the potential for personal development comes as the younger generation eschews conventional societal institutions, such as family and the church, which previously have imparted purpose.

The Gallup survey found just 27 percent of millennials are married, compared to 36 percent of Gen Xers, 48 percent of baby boomers and 65 percent of traditionalists who were married at that stage in their lives.

Additionally, the survey notes that just 55 percent of millennials report having interest in religion, compared to 65 percent of Gen Xers, 70 percent of baby boomers and 75 percent of traditionalists. Twenty-four percent of young people report seldom attending church, and 27 percent never, compared to 27 percent who said they attend once per week.

Greg Jao, vice president of campus engagement for InterVarsity Christian Fellowship, said the capricious employment habits of young people entering the workforce can be interpreted as a winding search for meaning — and the desire for bosses who double as life coaches, the search for a mentor.

“I don’t think, as a generation, they’re apathetic or disengaged; I think they’re looking for people who help provide meaning and coherence to what they’re experiencing,” Mr. Jao said. “And I think if millennials find a job where the goal is just to make a profit for your corporation or have a good paycheck, that’s not satisfying to them.

“When they’re connected to a sense of purpose, when someone is investing in their development and engaging with them, they have a high level of engagement,” he said. “It makes sense.”

Mr. Jao also pointed to the ascendance of activism on college campuses, such as the Black Lives Matter movement, as a similar attempt by young people to belong to groups that transmit a sense of purpose greater than oneself.

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