Get Out of My Face: Why Gen Y Refuses to Put in Face Time

Face time. It’s really just about control, isn’t it? Even if there isn’t work to be done, the boss demands that you be there, sitting at your desk, watching the minutes of your life tick away. The boss is paying you, and therefore believes he deserves you until late. How late? Late enough to prove your commitment to the company. Work Saturdays? You bet, at least half a day. Note to employers: this rubs Generation Y the wrong way.

My previous post didn’t really go into much detail in this regard, but this “face time” issue was another aspect of the InsideCounsel Superconference that didn’t make much sense.

Here’s how it went:

“We don’t mind working late, or even all night if we have to. We just don’t want to come in to work on Saturdays if there isn’t work to do,” said Faten Dabis an attorney who had left the practice of law- she was admittedly not from Gen-Y, but a Gen X-er.

“You should be coming in Saturday looking for work to do.” Commented Dan Hull, partner at Hull McGuire PC.

“I can’t stand this attitude coming from Generation Y, they will work late only if they are convinced it is important or necessary.” Scott Greenfield, panel member and criminal defense attorney added.

I think that is the disconnect. Generation Y wants their life to mean something. They want to handle work that is significant, and they certainly don’t want to crank out the billable hours reviewing non-urgent documents on a Saturday afternoon just to line the pockets of the otherwise wealthy partners.

The attitude in years past to this sort of brazen attitude by young lawyers would have been, “tough sh**, deal with it.” Bosses, you should realize you could get away with that in the past, but I am going to let you in on a little secret.


We can start our own firm, build our own company, or go work for someone that knows how to motivate us. We are the largest demographic since the boomers, and you raised us to fear nothing, and for that we thank you. Learn to live with us, or learn to live without us- either way, once you are long gone or retired, we will run this country.



24 Responses to “Get Out of My Face: Why Gen Y Refuses to Put in Face Time”

  1. Katie says:

    As a member of GenY, I’m not sure I completely agree with all of your assertions. I think one of the major distinctions about “face time” involves the late night/weekend time physically in the office. We’re willing to do the work, but we just try and do that work at home. As a generation of multi-taskers with an emphasis on friends and family, when I have extra work to do, I try and do it on my back porch with my husband and dog nearby. I’d rather do my work on a laptop at home and then email it in. I’m willing to be in the office M-F from 7-6 but I have a limit.

    • admin says:

      That is a great point, and I think that is what Gen Y most wants the partners to understand. If we can have some flexibility in when and where we do the work (as long as the client receives outstanding service) then we will be much happier.

  2. Michael Zicherman says:

    Plain and simple… I don’t believe in face time. Never have as an associate, and never will as will as a partner. Face time requirements are for those partners that do not trust the associates they have working for them, and believe that if they don’t see them working, then they must not be working. If a partner has that little trust of their associate, they need to find themselves a new associate.

  3. Dave! says:

    Two things keep resonating with me in these posts….

    First, there is the quote from Scott Greenfield: “I can’t stand this attitude coming from Generation Y, they will work late only if they are convinced it is important or necessary.” I think Greenfield meant that a partner shouldn’t have to “convince” an associate that work is important or necessary… at least, I hope that’s what he meant! But the implication there (and certainly the implication from quotes like Dan Hull’s, “You should be coming in Saturday looking for work to do.” is that we should all work late and on weekends even if it’s unimportant and unnecessary!

    Second, I think Zicherman (comment above) hit the nail on the head: face time is less about “putting in the work” than it is a lack of trust. Older attorney’s seem to think you have to be in the office to work, while Gen-Y (and many Gen-Xers) know that’s a fallacy. You can piss away time at the office just as easily at home. Sitting at a desk does not equal productive time, but to a partner who doesn’t trust their associates to be working “on their own” that face time provides them with reassurance, even if it’s illusory. Like Katie (above) I work hard. I’m hardly lazy and my wife certainly wishes I worked less. But I don’t put in a lot of that time at the office. A lot of it I put in at my dining room table. Why? So if my wife or my baby needs me, I can take a break and deal with what is important to me: my family. That is somehow lazy? Or less “loyal” to the firm? I call shenanigans. I’d wager that I get more done sitting at that table than some burned out, resentful associate sitting in the office on a Saturday morning “looking for work” any day.

  4. Alli says:

    Face time is definitely the real issue here and I think part of the issue stems from the fact that past generations conflated “being at work” with “working.” They’re not the same, new generations know they’re not the same, and, in the end, face time for the sake of face time isn’t good for anyone. Employer, employee, or client.

    Lawyers happen to do work that is easily measured (whether by hour or project). Set standards, measure productivity and move on. Some won’t cut it, but lawyers failing to meet firm expectations is hardly a new phenomenon. It’s certainly not widespread, generational mayhem.

    The young professionals I surround myself with are among the hardest working people I know. To call an entire generation lazy because it has found ways to serve clients without following a status quo that was set during a time with less technology, less efficiency, and less productivity (not to mention significantly less out-of-office responsibility, thanks to mobile technology), seems pretty foolish.

  5. wheat says:

    Outside of the legal profession, it has been my experience that “face time” has always been about control. When the “standard” work week is something approximating Monday – Friday from 8am to 5pm, establishing an expectation that staff should always work late and weekends is simply about asserting control over all aspects of the employee’s life.

    Most Gen Xer’s and Millenials I’ve encountered have no problems whatsoever pitching in and working late/weekends when there is a real need. However to work late just for appearance sake, or to come in on Saturday and ‘find something to do’ is making yourself a slave to your company. In the 60’s and 70’s, this attitude might have helped one work their way up the corporate ladder, but in today’s business climate that is dominated by downsizing, right sizing, and layoffs, employees simply can’t count on the company remaining loyal to its staff.

  6. Pat says:

    I remember putting in a lot of “facetime” when I was in my 20’s and early 30’s. On several weekends I was in the office when the CEO came in for short meetings. Since I was there, I got to know him pretty well, and he started giving me separate projects. After about three years of this, I became a candidate for a corporate VP position at a very young age at a very large company, and eventually was selected for the job. People are sometimes so selfish, they don’t even realize they are not acting in their own best interest. This hostility to a made-up notion like “facetime” is a recipe for a very average career. I am deeply grateful it never occurred to me to resent the opportunity “facetime” created in my life. I am a CEO now, by the way and still like to hang around a bit, just in case I can help someone out when I don’t need to.

    • admin says:

      Congratulations on your great success. Sounds like working late and coming in Saturdays really paid off for you. Its a simple pattern, you work the hardest, do great work, be reliable, and you will end up as the boss or close to it. This is not brain surgery. The real trick is to be the best at work AND the best at home. If you figured out a way to do that, please share it with us.

  7. Jenna says:

    I agree with you entirely. Well done!

  8. Anna says:

    I really enjoyed this article. I agree, it’s quite pathetic when your co-workers are jockeying their commitment by cc’ing the boss on an email dated on a Saturday or past midnight. It’s like the other woman; if no one whores their personal time they have no one to screw. Don’t volunteer your time at home, you look transparent in your agenda to climb the corporate ladder. GET A LIFE. Look at France, they have labor laws which dictate and protect families by setting a 38 hour work week. Is it any wonder why their pace of life is of more leisure and pleasure? At the end of your days, will the memories of earning that position warm your heart and spirit? Please.

  9. recluse says:

    As a Gen-Xer, I was raised to fear everything. Heh. Anyway, I am sympathetic to the idea that being a warm body at a desk does not equal productivity, but the little threat at the end where if you don’t get your way, you’re leaving and starting your own firm smacks of the kind of entitlement that I find so annoying in millennials. You may want to express yourself a little differently if you want people to be receptive to your arguments.

  10. Michael Zicherman says:

    Pat, congratulations on all the success you achieved. However, you sell yourself short by chalking up your accomplishments to the face time that you put in. The concept of “face time”, however, is not actually about doing work, but rather conveying the appearance that you are going the extra mile. Though you worked on Saturdays, it sounds as though there was an actual reason for you being in the office to do the work, other than to just be seen. I tend to think that even if you didn’t happen to see the CEO on Saturdays, you would have found some other way to demonstrate to the CEO that you were bright and a hard worker. Nonetheless, irrespective of why the CEO might have given you separate projects, in the end, it is your abilities and diligence that have fostered your success, not the fact that someone saw you in the office over the weekend.

  11. shg says:

    Michael, while Pat’s success is not attributable solely to his having shown up for work, his talent and ability would never have been recognized if he sat home in his pajamas. It’s all part of a package, no matter how Gen Y wants to rationalize why they should be allowed to do everything their way. That was his message.

  12. Gregg Rodriguez says:

    Adrian, I am early Gen X, but I still agree with you completely and I don’t buy into that crap that I need to be at the office all the time so other people think I am working hard–which is why I became a consultant. I prefer to get paid for every single hour I work and I don’t mind working late if I have to. I think the biggest difference between Gen X and Gen Y, is that late Gen X and Gen Y are way more resourceful, better at research due to being tech savvy and better at collaboration. In essence they “work smarter” rather than “harder” and that’s the future of business. Companies will be required to operate leaner, faster, smarter and holistically in order to keep up with the competition.


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