business news in context, analysis with attitude

by Kevin Coupe

Axios reports on a new poll it conducted revealing that "eighty-two percent of Gen Zers say the idea of doing the minimum required to keep their jobs is pretty or extremely appealing — and 15% of that share are already doing so … 85% of young women find the idea of doing the minimum to get by appealing, and 79% of young men feel the same way.  82% of white respondents, 86% of Black respondents, and 79% of Asian respondents share this view of work, as do 84% of Democrats, 79% of Republicans, and 83% of independents."

In other words, "the desire to work to live, instead of living to work," cuts across gender, racial and political lines.

To which I have two reactions.

First … isn't it nice that there's something about which so many people agree .

Second … Yikes.

I think we all should find these numbers alarming.  Companies, countries and cultures cannot make progress when their people do the minimum necessary.

Lowest common denominator effort and lowest common denominator goals inevitably lead to lowest common denominator results. 

The Axios story points out that respondents in general "ranked work lower on their list of priorities than family, friends, wellness, and hobbies."  It also posits that "it's good that younger people are forming healthier boundaries around work — and totally understandable they're prioritizing other things, given issues like climate change and social unrest that can make corporate ladder-climbing seem pointless."

Again, two reactions.

First, I suspect that leadership at Axios doesn't think it is good when its own employees put in the minimum time and effort in their work.  (Axios was sold to Cox Enterprises for more than a half-billion dollars about a month ago.  Companies don't usually fetch that kind of price as a result of medium effort.)

Second … and this is the Eye-Opening business lesson … if we accept the basic premise of these survey results, it makes it an even higher priority for business leaders to create organizational cultures that communicate the importance of doing more, not less, in one's work life.  That means creating a culture of caring and acknowledges and addresses this trend, not simply decries it.  That means helping everyone within an organization to understand why their contributions matter, and how their individual roles support the whole, and why what they do is meaningful.

Maybe I'm old fashioned … and maybe I'm just old … but I'm a believer in aspiration, perspiration and inspiration.  But those things don't just happen.  They occur in companies when business leaders actually lead.