Are We Unfairly Discriminating Against Peers With “Regular” Jobs?

Feb 25, 2013 -
Gen Y knows what it feels like to be unfairly judged. We are analyzed and categorized and criticized for our passion-first approach to our careers and our desire for more flexibility and autonomy than the standard 9-to-5 system allows. And we hate it when people misunderstand and look down on us for that. But what about the way some of us look down on those who choose to go the standard 9-to-5 route rather than a non-traditional career? While we can’t stand people calling us lazy, entitled or unrealistic for wanting to forge our own paths, we sometimes have a tendency to look down on those who aren’t striking out as side hustlers, solopreneurs, multi-passionates or whatever other buzz-worthy titles are currently in style. We suspect that they’re settling. Giving in. Selling out. (Author’s confession: I am among the guilty. As a card-carrying member of the most idealist strain of Gen Y, I find myself regularly pitying 9-to-5ers as if they’re sad little sheep who haven’t been shown the way. But some of them are perfectly content doing the 9-to-5, and who I am to judge just because it doesn’t work for me?) Maybe, just maybe, some of the strained relations between parties could be eased if we stepped into our peers’ shoes once in awhile, just like we wish they would step into ours.

Hate the game, not the player

It’s reminiscent of the backlash that occurred from the women’s lib movement. When women stood up to demand their place in the workforce, those who chose to still stay at home faced judgment from their more “forward-thinking” sisters. Suddenly, you were either a career pioneer or a doormat, perpetuating the stereotypes and injustices of a broken system. If you weren’t donning a power suit and pounding the glass ceiling, you were somehow seen as living a lesser life. Things have improved considerably, but the old resentments and stereotypes still linger. Stay-at-home moms still face frustrating reactions like, “Must be nice to have so much time to yourself!” and “I wish all I had to do all day was clean the house!” People seem to have forgotten, in striving towards more options for women, that the freedom to choose includes the freedom to choose the “old” option, which is every bit as deserving of respect, even if it’s not the option for you.

Understanding goes both ways

I’m one of the first to raise my fist and argue that our current work system is horribly broken. The red tape and outdated standards of another era severely limit today’s workers in terms of how effectively we can work, how fairly we’re treated and how much satisfaction we can get from our jobs. But just because the system needs updating, that doesn’t mean those who choose to stay in that system are inherently less ambitious, less admirable or less intelligent than those who want to push for change. When our older coworkers were entering the workforce, things like remote work and online entrepreneurship were barely options to consider. You dutifully put in your decades at ABC Corp., whether it was your dream job or not, and as long as you were punctual and lived up to your job description, you got your paycheck and went home and considered it a job well done. And some of our peers don’t want to be revolutionaries, dedicating their off-hours to side hustles and assuming the risks of starting a business or freelance career. They just want to go to work, come home (where they can actually forget about work) and enjoy the security of a steady paycheck. They maybe (gasp!) even enjoy their hours between 9:00 and 5:00, because they’ve found a job they’re passionate about. If we demand respect for our preferences, we have to extend the same respect to—or at least attempt to empathize with—those who have different preferences. Do you ever catch yourself judging others? If you work a traditional job, do you ever feel like the victim of discrimination? Kelly Gurnett is Assistant Editor of Brazen Life and runs the blog Cordelia Calls It Quits, where she documents her attempts to rid her life of the things that don’t matter and focus more on the things that do. You can follow her on Twitter and Facebook and hire her services as a blogger extraordinaire here.