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Give Us a Break: Millennials Are Suffering From 'Vacation Shame'

Planning a vacation, pops? Shhh. Don’t tell your millennial co-workers.

Not only do they make more money than you do, they also don’t take kindly to taking time off from work. That is if we’re to believe the dispiriting findings of a survey recently commissioned by the roadtrip-loving folks at Alamo Rent a Car.

The questionnaire results revealed that millennials suffer “a sense of shame” for taking a vacation (59 percent of those surveyed), considerably more than their older peers (41 percent). Even more emo, the mere thought of planning a vacation also fills them with feelings of shame.

Related: 5 Ways Millennials Are Like No Generation Before Them

Poor millennials. That would be people roughly ages 18 to 34, ICYMI. Maybe they're just saying no to holiday time because they’re scared to look like the slackers gray-hairs expect them to be (and to get fired). Or maybe they’re overcompensating for constantly being stereotyped as whiny, entitled brats. It’s anyone’s guess.

Alec Levenson suspects millennials are blowing off vacation time for two reasons: inexperience and pressure to perform. The USC Marshall School of Business Center for Effective Organizations senior research scientist and co-author of What Millennials Want From Work told Entrepreneur that the Alamo survey findings are consistent with his extensive fieldwork on millennial behavior in the workplace.

“It’s fascinating that millennials would do more vacation-shaming than older generations when they have been accused of not being dedicated enough at work -- if you believe the stereotype,” he says. “Vacation shaming is not a natural extension of being dedicated, but instead a misguided effort to fit in with workplace cultures that emphasize greater and greater productivity at the expense of employee well-being. I think we’re seeing higher rates of vacation shaming among millennials because they don’t yet have enough experience to realize the importance of taking time off when you need it.”

Related: How to Motivate Millennials, By Millennials

Depriving yourself of vacation, even the paid kind, is the new workplace martyr badge of honor, so says Gary Oster, managing director of the Project: Time Off Coalition. Originally launched in 2013 under a different name, the U.S. Travel Association initiative was formed to “shift culture so that using personal time off is not considered frivolous.” 

“It’s long past time to stop wearing unused vacation days as a badge of honor,” Oster said in a statement Alamo released announcing the findings of the survey. (Note: Alamo supports the Project: Time Off Coalition.) “By forgoing vacation days, Americans are missing out on stronger bonds with family and friends, greater fulfillment and productivity in their work lives and enhanced health and wellness as a results of time away from the office.”

And the domestic travel and tourism industry is reportedly missing out on billions of dollars vacation-shunners could be spending, but aren’t. Disney wants you back. So does Sea World and Caesar's and The Venetian in Vegas. (You bet they all also support the Project: Time Off Coalition.)  

Related: The Secret to Increased Productivity: Taking Time Off

But let’s get back to that depressing survey. Of the 1,500 adults polled, millennials aren’t just more likely to beat themselves up for taking a vacation -- they’re also judging older co-workers for indulging in holiday time, too. Yeah, that’s not helping your image problem, kids. Sounds like you need a break.
Edition: November 2016

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