Do Millennials have a commitment issue?

19 Oct

I’ve been struggling with this post for a couple of weeks now. To understand where it popped into my head, you need to look into my life.At the ad agency I work for, we’ve recently had a couple of employees leave. I won’t get into the details, but they were both millennials and both left to different companies. They were both single, (as are all but one of the millennials at the agency). It got me thinking, “Do millennials have a commitment issue?”

Whenever I try and figure out a question like that, I look to myself first (don’t you do that, too?). “Do I have a commitment issue?” I really don’t think so – I’ve been with the same company for six years now and have never had problems committing to any relationship or opportunity.

I know I’m not the only person in the world, so I looked into some research about millennials and marriage (possibly the biggest commitment).

The largest study to date about millennials if from Pew, in a report called, “Millennials: Generation Next.” Millennials value marriage and parenthood highly, but they are “markedly less likely to be married or to have children than earlier generations were at comparable ages,” the Pew Center said. In fact, take a look at this graphic which illustrates the difference of marital status when generations were the same age.

Obviously, marriage isn’t the only measure of how committed someone is. Millennials are on track to become the most educated generation, ever. Education takes a lot of commitment, especially higher education. I tried finding more information about employee retention, but it was sparse (since most . Here’s what I did find: Some 70 percent of Millennials say there is a possibility they will change jobs once the economy improves.

If that’s true, that means there will be a lot of job changes once the economy improves.

But, back to the question at hand: Does this mean that millennials have a commitment issue?

I have to go back to the two employees that left the agency to answer that question. I don’t believe they both left because they were scared of commitment, I believe they left because they were looking for something else. Much like a relationship, you can not be afraid of commitment, but something better comes along. Study after study shows that millennials are not afraid to leave a job because a better offer comes around (more input, more pay, more flexibility). Millennials are always looking for the next big thing to be a part of.

Obviously, there can’t ALWAYS be something better. That would mean you were afraid of commitment. We (hopefully) don’t look at relationships that way.

Maybe the better question is:
Do millennials have a contentment issue?

13 Responses to “Do Millennials have a commitment issue?”

  1. Colin October 19, 2011 at 10:17 am #

    I think you nailed it when you said “millenials are looking for the next big thing.” My resume is littered with job changes in my 6 years since I have been out of college. The longest I have been with a single company is 2.5 years, the longest in a single position is just under a year. Why? Probably because I know that company loyalty to employees is at a minimum these days. Furthermore, I theorize that millenials — being the most educated generation ever — are used to change in our lives. We would change degrees, we changed classes every semester, and we thrive on it. That’s a weaker theory, but a theory.

    This job change I just made was actually my most difficult and last for a long, long time. Why? Because I’ve finally gotten out of the “millenial” stereotypical lifestyle: I am married, I have a kid, a mortgage, a couple car payments, etc. Changing jobs is a pain in the ass when you have so much wrapped up in your job, including insurance, car payments that match your pay schedule, etc. etc.

    I see it as the challenge is on the employer – how do you keep us around? Money isn’t necessarily what we’re after. We want new mental challenges, so that could mean changing departments or picking up side jobs within the organization, similar to what Google does with allowing their employees to work on personal side projects.

    Just my thoughts.

    • Rachel October 19, 2011 at 3:15 pm #

      I get the whole ‘not fitting the Millennial stereotype’ thing. I’m married 4.5 years, have a baby, and a mortgage. I’ve tried out a few different jobs at the ripe age of 27. I’m wondering if the first-wave Millennials are already starting to break the stereotype of Millennials being lazy, and making it more clear that we get bored because we were taught to expect more out of every aspect of our lives. When employers see millennials as ‘challenging’ I think- didn’t your generation raise us to expect (and be willing to work for) more? Why aren’t you providing more challenges and opportunities?

    • Danielle October 24, 2011 at 2:46 pm #

      Another married Millennial here :) I totally agree with Colin – it is less about our level of commitment, I believe, and more about the professional landscape as it is now. What millennials want from job opportunities is often very different from what companies traditionally offer. Not to mention that the traditional offerings have been scaled back considerably since generations before were coming on to the job scene. Maybe our expectations are too high, but there ARE organizations out there that understand that things are changing and make themselves attractive to millennials, thus the temptation to see if the grass really is greener on the other side.

  2. Zach October 19, 2011 at 10:18 am #

    Interesting blog, I’ve been following for a while.
    I think you have a definite point. I even think that the fact that millennials are highly educated proves that there is a commitment issue. It seems like more and more people are continuing in their education to avoid real world commitments and being forced to “grow up”. I can’t imagine people look at a master’s degree the same that they did 20 years ago as so many people are staying in school for staying in school’s sake.
    Make sense?

  3. Joe October 19, 2011 at 11:33 am #

    I don’t know if the choice to continue education is done to avoid growing up as much as it’s done because of perceived necessity. 50 years ago, a high school degree was preferred and a college degree or military service was enough to separate you from the pack. 25 years ago, a college degree was preferred and a Master’s was enough – now a post-undergrad degree is listed as preferred on almost any job description I see. More and more, Millenials are being taught that the route to a career includes getting that extra couple years of education.

    As for the blog, I can only really speak for myself, but I know a lot of other millenials have been pushed to not settle and that there is always greener grass. Moving jobs isn’t from a lack of commitment as much as it’s we’ve been taught that changing companies isn’t a corporate no-no.

    30 years ago, the mentality was get a job, stay at the job, get rewarded. Now it’s get a job, make it work for you, when it doesn’t, find another one that does. More and more people are realizing that you don’t have to stay at a job you aren’t challenged or satisfied with – there are other options and you shouldn’t feel shame, disappointment or that you’re letting an employer down by leaving for a new challenge.

  4. Edgar Vazquez October 19, 2011 at 11:35 am #

    I dont believe we have a commitment issue, I believe the issue is that few companies really understand what we value and commit to. I believe in bigger causes that most traditional corporations dont even care about. If they dont share my values or causes, why commit to them? Next!

  5. Elisa October 19, 2011 at 2:38 pm #

    Excellent question, good read.

    I think the numbers showing marriage doesn’t necessarily reflect a lack of commitment. The chart only shows through age 28 and I believe Millennials are getting married when they’re closer to their 30s. I’d love to see the same graph, but ages 29 – 34 and see how the percentages change…It seems as though we’re having a cultural shift, we’re not getting married as young as our parents did.

    We’re definitely a group that is encouraged to take the better offer when presented and the timing’s right. And in a growing world of multi-taskers whose attention span keeps getting shorter, the younger generation is becoming more and more restless. So, to answer your latter question – yes we have contentment issues.

    Growing up, our education and school location changes every 3-4 years. Classes change every semester. And your internship lasted just a summer. So what’s to stop you from changing your job after a year and half?

    Also, at times I think my peers and I view changing jobs as “moving up the ladder”. Most of the time, when my friends have taken new jobs it was for a higher position – a promotion. And of course, better pay. So until we reach our goal, the top, we will be restless and not completely content.

    When the millennials are fully content and are no longer restless, they’ll be ready to commit.

  6. Sarah October 19, 2011 at 2:55 pm #

    I don’t think there’s any ‘issue’ attached to moving from one challenge to the next. If we’re not learning, growing and adding accomplishments to our resume – why stay?

    Here’s an interesting bit that puts a positive spin on changing jobs. “You’ll experience more personal growth and build an adaptable skill set and a wide network which are keys to being able to find a job whenever you need to”:

    Gen X entered one of the worst job markets (early 80s) since the Great Depression, weren’t able to change the status quo (Baby boomers vs. Gen X), loyalty shifted from jobs to family and success didn’t come easy. Gen Y is different. So are Baby boomers. Because they all grew up in drastically different times in society.

    In this discussion, it’s important to look at the different generations and where, when and how they grew up. Those factors play into their work-life values and management style. Managers of the 20th century were trained to supervise people to get them to do stuff. Now that most people are knowledge workers vs. semi-skilled workers, Gen Y needs managers who inspire, motivate, and strive to make a meaningful workplace. So we change jobs. Some of us aren’t OK with ordinary. Some of us want to continue to build our skill set, expand our network and meet new people and new experiences that will propel our growth in the workplace.

  7. Bryce Christiansen October 20, 2011 at 10:54 am #

    Loved this. I’m 25 and am coming up on my 5 year anniversary in about 6 months so I’m definitely out of the norm compared to the rest of my generation.

    But, I can see what you are saying. I have to agree with Colin that the commitment issue isn’t just with the employees, but the employers themselves.

    I’ve been in two different jobs in two and a half years of graduating college, and I wouldn’t change a thing. My first job fired my co workers like they were spoiled fruit. There was no way I was going to build the foundation of the rest of my future working in that kind of position.

    I think our generation is aware of the instability of jobs and the economy and are wise about keeping our options open.

    Great discussion,


  8. Jesse October 26, 2011 at 5:34 am #

    I have to agree with what Edgar said. I believe in bigger causes that most traditional corporations dont even care about. If they dont share my values or causes, why commit to them? Next! I’m at this point now — having been at a company for no less than 2 months — they are talking about the future, I’m thinking how can I go on. The job isn’t terrible, but the morals, the ethics, the attitude is. I’m looking around — searching for the right place that will a.) value MY time as well as theirs. b.) look me in the eye when they want to talk to me, instead of sending me emails. c.) understand that, as this blog attests to, i’m probably not going to stay here the rest of my life. in fact, i can guarantee a time period at all. thanks for this blog, it is most appreciated and i’ll continue to follow it.

  9. Alex October 26, 2011 at 12:10 pm #

    I agree with you and Colin here- I think it’s the constant desire for “the next big thing,” and being used to change. I wonder what our divorce rates will be. Will they be higher since we’re still continually seeking the next big thing?

    Another key change might be a factor: We’ve grown up online with cooomplleeetely different communication styles and access to private information about people that no previous generation has had. Though we say we want to get married, do our styles of communication hinder that? Or, do we know so much about a person (and therefore become super picky about weeding them out) before even meeting them, that we don’t give them a chance? Once you get to know someone, that crazy comment about religion may make more sense, or maybe you learn that all those party pictures on Facebook actually aren’t too indicative of that person’s values or lifestyle.

    Great blog post- I have to thank Colin for tweeting about it or else I may not have found it. Will add it to my Google reader :)

  10. Heather Marie December 18, 2011 at 2:39 am #

    I am a single millennial. I don’t really have a desire to find “the next big thing” but I want to be challenged and learn as much as possible from my employer. This year I found myself begging for more work and responsibility during my annual evaluation.

    I think most millennials are multitasksers, excel in what they do and work hard. However, unlike the baby boomer generation we don’t need to stay in the office until 9 pm to complete said project. I get a lot of judgement for promptly at 5 p.m. but I’m completely done with my work for the day (often days ahead of deadline) this work ethic disparity seems to cause conflict between millenials and the older generations.

Trackbacks and Pingbacks

  1. Generation Y, the Workplace and Being a Dad | Dad in Chucks: Gen Y Dad and Husband - October 26, 2011

    [...] Generation Y – that glorious generation that I am a part of, born between the early-80s and mid-90s – is a hot topic these days. We’ve now generally been in the work place for ~5 years, we make up the most of the entry level if not mid-management ranks, and we’re classified by two things: copious amounts of student loan debt to pay for and our affection for jobs that allow us to wear jeans and t-shirts. But more so, I think we’re known for  changing jobs all too often, we scoff at the notion that you should work at one place for more than 5 years. Largely speaking, as digital friend Chip put it, Gen Y has a commitment issue. [...]

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