Tuesday, March 9, 2010

The Protestant Work Ethic and the Spirit of Generation Y

Max Weber might be a god amongst sociologists, but is he still applicable to us today?

Weber’s theory on Protestant Work Ethic and the Spirit of Capitalism (henceforth, PWE) is simple, but brilliant, and has changed the science of sociology since its publishing. He claims  that the Calvinist emphasis on the necessity for hard work is proponent of a person's calling and worldly success is a sign of personal salvation. In other words, Protestants work harder then Catholics.

Though Millennials might not believe that amassing a large net worth is necessarily an indicator of God’s favor, might we still view making money in equivalent terms?

Considering that we are the fastest growing section of the workforce, it’s important to know how we view wealth and what motivates us to work. Here are the highlights of how we feel about the workplace.

  • We want to love our work and be good at it – Though this is not an entirely original concept, it is very important. Gen Y is very achievement oriented, and visible, positive results serve as encouragement for further work. Feeling like one is contributing to something is also important. Being a worker on an assembly line, where the final product is never seen, does not make one seem part of a team. The best results are those that are meaningful and whose results can be seen immediately.
  • Money isn’t happiness – Though a high salary is very attractive, balancing work and play is even more important. We have friends and family, and it is important to be able to fit those into your life even when trying to build a career or go to school at the same time. The more flexible the schedule, the more attractive it is.
  • Everybody is different – Not everyone is motivated the same way, and employers need to recognize that. While some people might want fringe benefits, another might need a cash bonus to get him working. Managing is more complex than just handing out paychecks – know what makes us tick, and you’ll get better work out of it.
  • Ongoing learning – We could be described as the ADD generation. Easily bored with repetitive work, throwing a curve into the typical workload can lead to innovation and rejuvenation. We love technology, and are much better at manipulating it then previous generations. Throw me a cool new gadget, and I’ll have it up and running in the matter of a few hours.

In response to my original thesis, it seems Gen Y values teamwork and balance over a fat wallet.

Think I’m wrong about motivation? Share what you think.

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