80 percent of surveyed woodworkers say Millennial work ethics are a problem
February 27, 2019 | 6:27 pm UTC

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80 percent of surveyed woodworkers say the work ethics of Millennials and Gen Z (the generation following Millennials) present problems in their workplaces.
We recently surveyed 150 woodworkers to find out if the companies they work at are having trouble finding laborers. 120 of them said yes. We asked them what they're doing to find labor. We also asked what they believed was causing the shortage.


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We then asked them about Millennials. More than 87 percent said Millennials don’t show up on time. 73 percent said they lack respect for authority and 75 percent said they often complain about job difficulty.
The comments went even harder. Most described attitude problems, slow productivity, small attention spans, laziness, lack of common sense, an expectation of top dollar right away, and an inability to put down their smartphones:


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"If you are not focused on how to hire a millennial you are going out of business," he says. 


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  • "Most of the applicants we get want to start out making a lot of money, not to be told what to do, want to be on their phone all working hours and just to not have to work very hard in general."
  • "Cultural unwillingness to take instruction and submit to authority. Too easy to get government benefits."
  • "No pride in work."
  • "Can't put their phone down for five minutes."
  • "Too much pay from our entitlement system for people to not work."
  • "Young people not willing to start out and work through the ranks. Government giving programs make people lazy."

Many respondents said schools aren't doing enough to expose students to the trades. Many also said there was pressure for young people to go to college and get urban skills. Others said the image of the woodworking industry ("a dusty old guy in a dark building") isn't helping matters.

We received one very insightful comment that said it isn’t the fault of millennials.

"This industry isn't great at making this field attractive. Programs like the 40 Under 40 awards are excellent and help make this seem relevant. (Stiles University's) Thomas Allott talks about the images that people relate to this industry - a dusty old guy in a dark building. That kind of imagery does nothing but drive intelligent, creative people somewhere else. The old business owners need to learn how to market themselves to a younger crowd and not hold to the iron-fisted management tactics they used 30 years ago. Those just entering the trades are more intelligent than they were, not because they are smarter, but because they have a wealth of resources to educate themselves. The romance of a small, boutique studio producing handcrafted furniture is way more appealing than the vast majority of positions that need to be filled.

Millennials and Gen Z aren't lazy, they need to be challenged. The one common, reoccurring thing that comes up during interviews is that the work is not about the money but being fulfilled in what they do. They are far more driven to start their own company - and fail miserably by the way - than work for someone who barks orders at them. I used to think they were lazy until I started to change my thinking. I have an engineer who is just out of college who can out-edit drawings (correctly) faster than an experienced cabinetmaker who has been using cad for 10 years. I have an entry level cabinetmaker who has a degree from FIT and was successful in the fashion industry but didn't find it creatively fulfilling. He is out there right now putting parts together and thrilled to be learning from the seasoned guys. He works from the moment he comes in until he is told to go home simply because we found someone who would be motivated by that and allowed our senior people to spend the time with him. Saying that Millennials and Gen Z are lazy is lazy thinking."

What do you think? Are Millennials and Gen Z naturally lazier than previous generations? Is it a cultural problem? A parenting problem? Is it the perception of the woodworking and manufacturing industries? Do they just need to be challenged differently? 

How can this be addressed?

Let us know in the comments.

Have something to say? Share your thoughts with us in the comments below.

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About the author
Robert Dalheim

Robert Dalheim is an editor at the Woodworking Network. Along with publishing online news articles, he writes feature stories for the FDMC print publication. He can be reached at [email protected]