It’s not my job, it’s my life.


The sixth and final belief that Gallup’s forthcoming book, It’s the Manager, recommends organizations change is perhaps the most surprising one:

Belief #6: For millennials and Generation Z, work “is not my job—it’s my life.”

For long, we have heard that millennials strive for work-life balance. Some managers have taken this to mean that millennials want to avoid working too hard. This is clearly untrue. Some of the most accomplished new companies in the world have been built by dedicated and hard-working millennials. As such, the whole idea of work-life balance needs to be re-examined and perhaps discarded.

One can only talk about balance with reference to two forces pulling in opposite directions. Although we talk about the importance of getting enough sleep, we don’t talk about sleep-life balance. This is because we consider sleep to be part of life, and life requires that we sleep. Millennials don’t see work as something that pulls them away from life, but rather as an important part of life. They think of work-life integration rather than work-life balance.

Using mobile technology, millennials tend to blur the time and place boundaries of traditional work. They may take time off during the day but will often work well into the nights. They work at home, at coffeeshops, and on the beach. They don’t see themselves as employed by their companies, but rather as freelancers employing their companies as a vehicle by which to live their passions and fulfill their purposes. They prefer to own their time and be accountable for their results.

As in other parts of their lives, they want their work to be meaningful and stimulating. They enjoy social interaction with their teammates at work and after work. They want to be treated with respect and dignity and be valued as human-beings, not just as human resources. They bring skills and insights that older generations lack, and they want to be recognized for the differences they make, not condescended to because of their youth.

Here are some things to focus on:

  1. Ask the millennials on your team for their opinions, especially—but not exclusively—about social trends, visions of the future, and the potential role of technology at work and in life.
  2. Get to know millennials (and others) on your team as individuals. Ask them about their stories, their backgrounds, and their passions.
  3. Give the millennials on your team continuous feedback. Mentor them and coach them rather than micromanage them, so that they learn effectively and respond openly.

As Gallup says, “More so than ever in the history of corporate culture, employees are asking, ‘Does this organization value my strengths and my contribution?’ Millennials see themselves in relationship with their manager and team, and as in all relationships, they want to feel valued. “