Commentary: Disengaged, indifferent, deluded? Why young workers have an image problem

Dr Eliza Filby, a generational researcher who advises companies on how to manage and recruit people in their twenties, thinks there is.

She told me that the pandemic had heightened factors that set these workers apart, starting with their overworked, burnt-out bosses in their thirties and forties.

These older managers had made it through the jolting uncertainty of the global financial crisis, then COVID-19, but often still relied on their parents to avoid financial disaster.

No wonder, says Filby, their juniors ask: “Why are you working so hard? What have you got to show for it?”

Younger workers also have a far better idea of how their job compares with what is on offer elsewhere, thanks to endless social media updates.

They grew up knowing money could be made on e-commerce sites such as Depop, which is just as well because they often do less part-time work than older employees did at their age, partly because school is more competitive now.

The upshot of this is that a lot of younger, over-parented staff arrive in their first job with little idea of how much better it is than serving beer – and little faith it will meet their life-long financial needs.

Filby’s advice: Listen to them. Offer great training. But do not, on any account, heed their every whim, because “you’re not actually helping them through life”.

I agree. I also think there has never been a better time to be an ambitious, hardworking young employee. Finding a great job isn’t easy but if you can do it, you may well find yourself surrounded by a lot of people your age setting an unusually low bar.