Motivating the Indifferent
They just don’t seem to care about customers.
—A Fast Food Manager
A lot of kids my age really want their work to mean something. If they feel like they are making a measurable difference, and if they’re told that they’re making that difference, that’s when they really seem to buy in. I like that because I’m the same way. I want to make a difference, too.
—A Community Center Manager
They offered me a big promotion, but I am not sure I want them to get their claws that deep into me. Most of the managers here look pretty unhappy to me.
—A Millennial
It is not your responsibility as a manager to give someone meaning; you need only to help them find it.


Millennials want, no, need to find meaning in their work. Early in our research process, we were using the term “apathetic” rather than “indifferent.” That is until we interviewed a young social entrepreneur. When he showed up, he told us we could only have 15 minutes, less than half the time for which we had prepared. During the first few minutes of the interview, he was polite but not very engaged, and then he saw a term we used in our research—apathy. He said, “Apathy? My generation is not apathetic. We care deeply about a lot of things. We just need a reason to care! Apathy is the wrong word.” He suggested we use the ...

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