More millennials are putting in long hours at work with no indication they’re doing more or better work or earning career advancement.

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Ty Tucker detects a disturbing trend: More millennials are putting in long hours at work with no indication they’re doing more or better work or earning career advancement.

In some ways, they’ve become their parents, who put noses to the grindstone over having a balanced life. And that’s not good.

Tucker, CEO of REV, a company that sells performance management platforms to help employers set employee goals and track progress, says he detects a toxic shift in the millennial generation’s approach to work.

“Many of them came into the workplace during economic crisis,” Tucker said. “They’re under-employed for their skills. They’re playing catch-up in their careers. And they’re looking to put in more and more hours” to get ahead.

“They’re falling into the same cycle as baby boomers,” Tucker said. “It used to be that you could put in long hours and were loyal to the corporation, and then you retired after 30 or 40 years in good shape. That doesn’t happen any more.

Loyalty doesn’t exist in corporate America.”

So he’s on a campaign to call out “work martyrs,” the workers who equate hours with productivity or promotability. It’s folly, he says, to believe that first-in, last-out clock punching is the road to advancement.

Except when it is.

Unfortunately, Tucker said, too many organizations — and particularly midlevel managers — don’t have clear metrics to measure employee worth so they resort to noting workers’ face time as a value. You get “work martyrs” when people put in hours to be seen, he said.

Like many people with insight into the workplace, Tucker says there’s a need for better performance measurement systems to help younger workers cross “a chasm of understanding about what’s important to the organization.”

In too many workplaces, he suggests, millennials aren’t challenged to meet specific, defined goals, so they spend time on busy-ness that doesn’t improve their standing but consumes a lot of time.

Interestingly, he places part of the blame on some of the big companies where millennials most want to work. He pointed to organizations like Google and Facebook for creating cultures that make it far too easy to spend long hours on the job.

There and elsewhere, workers competing for promotions fear heading home when colleagues are still on the job.

“Burnout is a real thing,” Tucker warned.

Millennials who tip toward the work martyr spectrum need to know what’s important to the organization. They need to focus their time and energy on doing what really matters. And if that isn’t apparent through management direction, it’s
incumbent on workers to ask.

Workers of any age who seek advancement must know what behaviors are being measured. What drives the organization forward?

If the answers are “I don’t know” or merely “time spent on the job,” it’s probably time for a heart-to-heart with bosses or human resource. Or time to move on.

Diane Stafford is the workplace and careers columnist at The Kansas City Star. Email her at