In public accounting, there's an expectation that young employees need to "put in their time" as we call it. And they need to put in this time because, well, that's what everyone else did when they're a young employee.
I think every generation thinks that the generation that comes after them is lazy and disrespectful. Go and read Musings of an Abstract Aucklander's post on why this is probably not actually that true (see the quote from Socrates near the end.)
The truth is though, times have changed DRAMATICALLY from when our partners (who are in their 40's) were working in their first and second years in accounting, to now.
First of all, we have vastly improved technology. I can get a lot more auditing done in an hour than we could 18 years ago when the partners were new hires. Of course, to some extent we just do more thorough audits these days, but overall, we are getting more work done per person.
In addition, my mother pointed out to me the other day that while my father would work long hours when he was younger, he also came home to a cooked dinner, bathed children, cleaned house and cleaned clothes. He really didn't have to worry about anything except work. Most young people that I know today do not have this luxury. Even if we have a partner waiting at home, typically that partner works full time too. But most of the partners at our firm are male, and most of them come home to my dad's situation each night.
Of course, some of the older folks at our firm are women, or were single at my age, so in the end, everyone still expects everyone younger than them to "serve their time." And it seems reasonable to expect people to work hard to prove themselves, right? But part of me just feels like, with all of our technology, we could be living differently, and working smarter, rather than just continuing the cycle.
Do you think people should work less now than in the past due to higher productivity per hour? Or do you think people will always be pushed to their limits, due to competition? What track did you take when you were just starting out - working long hours, or trying to get a work-life balance right away?