“When I started 20 years ago it was the junior people like me that worked the hardest. Now twenty years later it is the senior people like me that work the hardest. Somehow I have managed to be in the group that carries the load at every stage in my career.”
Is this really true? Have the days when young people “paid their dues” fallen to the wayside, with the burden shifting to management?
While it certainly isn’t true in every industry, (as a large number of young strategy consultants, investment bankers and lawyers would gladly point out if they only had the time), I think there are a number of developments that support this hypothesis:
1) The relationship between young people and employers has changed drastically with this generation. The concept of joining an organization and both sides committing to a long term, or even life-long, relationship has been so refuted on both sides that there is less incentive for young people to put in extra hours thinking there will be a long term payoff. I have read numerous studies that show young people are less motivated by money and take less pride in working for someone else. Employers have responded to this reality by offering young people a more balanced life style, with flex times, working from home, etc.
2) Management roles do not have the stability they did in the past. The advent of mass layoffs in the past few decades may have acted as a disincentive for your people to grow too attached to employers, but it also struck a new fear in managers and executives that resting on your laurels and political savvy is no longer sufficient. Entire layers of management have disappeared, and managers face great pressure just to maintain their professional advancements, let alone progress further. I have heard many Managers say that the biggest reason for their respective success has been the willingness to work harder than everyone around them.
3) A lean economy leads to more entrepreneurs, which means that people who might otherwise be in management in a larger company are instead shouldering the entire load of a small company. Entrepreneurs work hard.
The days of Mad Men where an executive sleeps off a three martini lunch on his office couch while the juniors plan for a long night at the office may have gone forever. Nowadays people have more freedom to choose their own path.
For those who are ambitious and don’t mind putting in the time to reach their goals, there is lots of room at the top. Just don’t expect to relax when you get there.