Sydney hospitality gurus unload on 'whining, self-entitled' young workers
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Sydney hospitality gurus unload on 'whining, self-entitled' young workers

Do the youngsters who wait tables and pour drinks at bars and restaurants need a reality check? Absolutely, say no-nonsense Sydney hospitality gurus Jake Smyth and Kenny Graham.

The Mary's Group founders, owners of the Lansdowne and Unicorn hotels and the popular Mary's venues, have unloaded on "whining" and "self-entitled" young workers, arguing the industry has over-corrected from its previous tyranny by indulging lazy behaviour and bad attitudes.

The pair also took aim at so-called "cancel culture" and political correctness on an episode of their podcast The Fat.

Hospitality gurus Jake Smyth and Kenny Graham unloaded on the work ethic of younger staff on an episode of their podcast.

Hospitality gurus Jake Smyth and Kenny Graham unloaded on the work ethic of younger staff on an episode of their podcast.Credit:Steven Siewert

"It's almost impossible to run a business now without offending somebody. It's almost impossible to run a life without f---ing offending somebody," Mr Smyth said. "You're seeing it so clearly with this cancel culture behaviour, which seems to be getting some sort of push-back now, thank f---. I think COVID has given some perspective to life, to a degree."

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Mr Smyth said the bad old days of abusive bosses yelling at their staff in kitchens and bars had needed to change. But today's young workers hadn't suffered through that era, he said. He hoped COVID-19 would bring to light the reality that "the hospitality industry needs an amendment in terms of relationships between employers and employees that is more based on equity and a fair outcome, not a historic over-correction".

The Mary's owners also complained too many younger workers were obsessed with a false idea of what constituted "work-life balance". "It is one of the most dangerous terms young people have been introduced to," said Mr Smyth, 38.

"The luxury that I got given as a kid was you can choose what you want to be. That was the thing my parents and my grandparents fought to give me. I thought the whole idea was trying to find a f---ing job that you loved, and that's your work-life balance."

Work-life balance ... is one of the most dangerous terms young people have been introduced to.

Jake Smyth

Mr Graham said young hospitality staff often worked 32-hour weeks, woke up at midday, went to work at 4pm and spent their nights off "getting hammered". The men also agreed that too much time glued to phones and social media meant many younger workers did not give themselves the chance to properly unwind during their downtime.

"On your days off, just actually put your f---ing phone down," Mr Smyth said. "Don't respond to the message on the WhatsApp group, and don't check your emails. Stay off Instagram. Actually treat your two days like you're on holiday."

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Mr Smyth acknowledged on the podcast that the vast majority of his company's young employees were "hard-working beasts" and only a small number were "self-entitled little f---s".

Speaking to The Sun-Herald, Mr Smyth said he "100 per cent" stood by the remarks. He also said there needed to be a nuanced conversation about the mental health and personal needs of young staff. While genuine mental health needs must always be taken seriously, too often people used "generalised triggers" such as mental health or poor work-life balance as an excuse, he said.

"It's just this slippery slope of scapegoating your own mental health responsibilities," he said. "It shows up in poor work ethic, lateness, too much drinking, poor performance at work in general.

"Exercise and hard work and diet change really does a lot for mental health. Co-opting blame doesn't."

Mr Smyth also said the "power of hard work and application" seemed to have been lost. "In my experience, the harder you work the better you feel," he said.

"There seems to have been an explosion of laying the blame for your own lack of ambition or inability to disconnect from social media on work, as opposed to calling it for what it is, which is you not taking f--king responsibility for your own agency and own position in life."

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