It’s almost inevitable that older people look down on younger people. After all, the older you get the less you remember about your own misspent youth. And the less you want to remember it. Anyone who would remind you of it will not make the list of your favorite people.
Anyway, qualms aside, researchers have recently discovered that millennials do not possess the best moral character. I am not talking about intimate behavior. I am referring to the recently-reported fact that they, more than older generations, happily use their friends to get ahead in the world. They do not see friendship as worthwhile in itself. They like other people if they can use them. They would, in other words, happily develop a friendship if it would help them at work. They would easily sacrifice a friend for a promotion.
Navigating a career is always tough, and millennials—now the single largest age group in the U.S.—face an especially crowded and competitive environment. But admit defeat they will not. A new survey of 11,500 people worldwide conducted by LinkedIn (LNKD) shows millennials in particular aren’t letting anyone stand in the way of their ascent, especially not their work buddies.
Anyone who has befriended one of these young workers—ages 18 to 24 in the study—should beware: Sixty-eight percent of millennials said they would sacrifice a friendship with a colleague if it meant getting a promotion. Baby boomers ages 55 to 65, on the other hand, claim to be more virtuous: Sixty-two percent said they would never even consider it.
First, job-hopping millennials proved disloyal to employers, and now apparently they’re also disloyal to each other. LinkedIn’s survey further suggests many millennials see friendships at work as purely functional: One-third said they “think socializing with colleagues helps them move up the career ladder,” compared with only 5 percent of boomers. Workplace friendships not only made millennials happy—half of those surveyed said such relationships motivate them, and 30 percent said these friendships make them productive.
Apparently, the concept of loyalty has not entered their moral lexicon.
Note well that older people, perhaps chastened by experience, describe themselves as more virtuous and less ruthless.
Unfortunately, getting the promotion and functioning effectively on the job are not the same thing. Millennials would do well to read yesterday’s post about “the dark side of personality.”
True enough, character flaws might help you to get ahead, but in the long run your bad character will undermine your ability to do a job.