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Balancing act: Younger workers lack work ethic, good attitude, readers say

Some mothers want their sons to grow up to be doctors or lawyers or ministers.

My mom wants me to start a revolution.

Perhaps I'm overstating that a bit. But after last month's column in which I asked whether today's younger workers show the same work ethic and good attitudes found among my parents' generation, my mom responded that "today's generation needs to be inspired to be the type of worker your dad was. Maybe you'll start a mini-revolution!"

That seems unlikely, but I did receive many interesting responses to the earlier piece — and not just from my mom.

Forty-one people voted in an unscientific poll attached to that column. Of them, 34 percent said today's workers do jobs differently than older generations but work just as hard. However, 66 percent said today's workers tend to be lazy and want rewards without effort.

I try to be one of the former, and I was happy to hear that at least one person thinks I am. A reader named Clark wrote in an e-mail that it is still possible to find "workaholic employees with good attitudes and gratitude for having a job."

"Your father reminds me of my father," Clark wrote. "You remind me of me. I only hope for your sake that your kids turn out to be as faithful of employees as my kids and son-in-laws have. I think it's the power of example."

Example is a powerful thing — for both good and bad!

Another reader, Tom, talked about the good example his father set with a strong work ethic. And although Tom is about my father's age, he wrote that he's known plenty of people in all generations who are content to "slack off."

"But your question was if the retirement of your father and others like him would leave us with a generation more negative and less industrious," Tom wrote. "If I look at my four children and my brother's children, I would have to say 'no.' … They all work hard and put in a lot of extra time and effort. All of them say they learned it from their father, and I learned it from my father. But again, there are plenty of people I've seen from at least the 1950s to the present who don't put in an honest effort. Their kids learn from them just as I learned from my father."

Another reader, Carol, wrote in an e-mail that she is an employer at a small business.

"Generally, the young workers of today, which is 35-40 and younger, have the attitude that they are doing their employer a big favor by working for them, rather than the attitude that their employer is doing them a favor by giving them employment," Carol wrote. "I think this is especially true of the twenty-somethings.

"I have a position in my insurance office that is generally office busy work that I hire college-age kids to do. It seems they want the job to match their lifestyle rather than adjusting to what the job requires, as is made very clear in the hiring process. The attitude seems to be they are deserving of something because they are doing me a favor by working there."

Another reader, commenting online, had a similar take on the situation.

"Unfortunately, many younger workers today expect (often demand) immediate gratification from their job," this reader wrote. "When they apply for a job, the first question that they ask is, 'How many vacation and sick days do I get?' They expect to start at the top, rather than at the bottom and work their way up.

"They have played sports where there are no winners or losers. They have been taught that self-esteem is more important than doing a job well. We are turning out a generation of 'me first and to heck with everyone else' children. It will be up to those that were not indoctrinated to straighten out the current generation that thinks they are better, and more deserving, than everyone else."

I hope that's not the case, but it does get back to the importance of example. After reading these responses, and pondering these issues, I'm going to double my efforts to demonstrate positive work habits and teach my children the same.

However, I also want to make sure they understand the importance of having a life outside of work. And that brings us back to the issue of work/life balance. How do you find that balance in your life? How do you teach your children to do the same?

I'd be interested in your ideas.

E-mail your comments to, post them online at or send a letter to the Deseret News, P.O. Box 1257, Salt Lake City, UT 84110.