The general manager of Australian cafe chain Muffin Break has made international headlines after suggesting millennial workers are not interested in doing unpaid work due to having an “inflated” sense of self-importance.
In an interview with news.com.au, Muffin Break general manager Natalie Brennan said fewer keen, young workers were signing up for unpaid internships and work experience at the department store muffin marketplace, saying the last intern she remembered hiring was over eight years ago.
“There’s just nobody walking in my door asking for an internship, work experience or unpaid work, nobody,” Brennan told news.com.au.
“You don’t see it anymore. Before that people would be knocking on your door all the time, you couldn’t keep up with how many people wanted to be working. In fact, I’d run programs because there were so many coming in.”
Despite admitting the work was unpaid, Brennan said “every single person” who she’d had on an internship she hired because they “backed themselves”. In comparison, she believes candidates today “think they’re better than the job” and have high expectations about their career path.
“[There is] this unreal view that you’re going to come into a company and be the general manager or CEO in five years,” she said.
Two Muffin Break franchisees were found to have underpaid a Chinese student $19,000 in 2014, and another two Chinese students were underpaid $46,000 in 2016. Last year, a former franchisee told a parliamentary inquiry into Australia’s franchising sector he had been told to consider “underpaying staff that I can trust”.
“The key message was that as migrants, I must be aware of other migrants or students who would gladly accept underpayments in lure of their first job and hence not report or complain,” the former Muffin Break franchisee said, reports The Guardian.
Brennan claims millennials are turning down the enticing offer of heating up muffins for free due to having an over-inflated sense of self-importance due to the prominence of social media.
“I think everybody thinks social media is going to get them ahead somewhere. There’s definitely that inflated view of their self-importance because they have X amount of Instagram followers or this many likes. That’s dangerous,” she said.
“I’m generalising, but it definitely feels like this generation of 20-somethings has to be rewarded even if it’s the most mundane, boring thing, they want to be rewarded for doing their job constantly.”
Her comments were lambasted on social media, with people from all over the world questioning why Muffin Break’s general manager would feel the need to weigh in on the debate in the first place.
I reckon you could be general manager of muffin break and just not be in the news at all. absolutely no reason for you to weigh in on literally anything
— j.r. hennessy (@jrhennessy) February 23, 2019
Capitalism has devalued labour and young people to the point where the expectation is that we should be grateful to work for free.#MuffinBreak is a metaphor for the toxic attitudes towards young people across the board, especially in politics #Auspol
— Senator Jordon Steele-John (@Jordonsteele) February 24, 2019
If I knew where my nearest Muffin Break was, I would boycott it
— Paul Karp (@Paul_Karp) February 23, 2019
In a statement to SmartCompany, Brennan said the recent article did “not reflect my values or those of Foodco”, and clarified her comments referred to supervised programs run through schools, TAFEs or universities.
“I don’t expect anyone to work unpaid and Foodco Group policy is, and has always been, that all employees including interns, employed either directly or through our brands are paid according to relevant awards,” Brennan said.
“The unpaid work I referred to was supervised programs run through schools, TAFEs or universities, which provide valuable gained experience to people before they enter the workforce full time. I want to apologise for any misunderstanding or upset caused by my comments.”