Nobody wants to work anymore seems to be the number one rallying cry of business owners, recruiters, and cranky people who aren’t getting their coffee fast enough at Starbucks. Can you relate? Truth be told, I have wondered the same thing – pre and post pandemic. It is crazy how many jobs are available, and how few takers there are.

So, I decided to do a little research to try to figure it all out, and the first thing I discovered was this type of statement is not at all new…

Yes, Gen-X may complain that Gen-Z doesn’t want to work (and if that’s the case, they should look in the mirror as Gen-X raised the current crop of newly minted adults), but when you look a little deeper, it seems each generation says the same thing, suggesting that “my generation” works, but “you youngsters” won’t work. Here are some examples:

FROM 2006
I can’t believe the bad luck I have had in trying to find someone to do some needed home improvements. It almost seems like nobody wants to work anymore and when they do work, they take no pride in what they do. How does one find a dependable worker?”

FROM 1981
“Farming is my hobby now. But these rocks — I hired two boys to clear the rocks off this land last week. But they just fooled around. They didn’t want to work. Nobody wants to work anymore.”

FROM 1916
“Well, as near as I can find out,” he answered, “the reason for food scarcity is that nobody wants to work as hard as they used to. In fact, nobody seems to want to work at all.”

FROM 1894
“With all the mines of the country shut down by strikers, what will everyone do for coal this winter? It is becoming apparent nobody wants to work during hard times.”

I guess it is easy, if not downright lazy, to say, “kids these days” and complain. But truth be told, if you aren’t getting people who want to work, it’s probably you (me) and not them.

Some jobs are challenging and low paying. It’s not that people don’t want to work; they don’t want to do the job you offer at the pay you offer. Looking at job postings on LinkedIn, and other places, you can see how many people applied for a particular job – some in the hundreds. The conclusion: people want to work, but they want to work on their own terms. And therein lies the rub.

Employers have always, always, always had it their way – you work on my terms, or you can hit the road. Those days are gone, likely forever. Employees now control the conversation and the rules, and that is difficult for employers to swallow – particularly small businesses (the engine of America) who often can’t meet the “new” demands; not because they don’t want to, but because they can’t. Unless you’ve owned your own small business, you can’t know how slim profit margins typically are, and how little working capital a company really has. Unfortunately, many prospects judge all companies the same – whether large or small – and that becomes quite a challenge for small businesses.

All this to say that generation Alpha will one day reach the workforce. And if you’re a betting person, place your money on Gen-Z and Millennials wailing about how no one wants to work anymore — not like when they were young!

The fact that “nobody wanting to work” is just part of life. Older generations should stop whining, and younger generations should stop being offended. That won’t happen, but it’s what should happen. Everyone needs to lighten up and tweak their jobs until you have the right salary and work combination to attract candidates.

Because just about everyone wants to work.

What say you?

Let’s start a conversation. Effective executives are those who have a clear sense of purpose and deeply held values, and 78Madison works hard to create a positive work environment that will boost career development and satisfaction. We understand that what drives people to the highest level of engagement is innately human and universal.