We have all worked in one of those companies where people are disposable. Every week there is someone new leaving to go elsewhere for the same money and the same job title. It makes no sense, initially.
A growing number of people who regularly quit because of incompetent leaders are millennials. Many of the companies we admire for the technology and disruption they have created are full of millennials.
Well, I am a millennial, and not everyone who is older than me understands why we quit. I thought I would explain it to those who may not understand. In one sentence, millennials quit leaders who do not understand and appreciate them, not companies.
Here is a letter to those leaders.
You hired us hoping that you could convince us to take a mortgage and follow your reign of terror. You wanted us to give up our time, holidays, dreams, and career goals so we can serve you, almighty master. Unfortunately, you forgot that we have the freedom to do whatever we want and that includes ignoring you. Yes, we are obsessed with social media, we post weird and wonderful things online, we are not afraid to share our thoughts even if it gets us fired and we are ‘a rebellious lot of young folk’ as you like to say. We may dress weird, value the latest iPhone, wear a backpack that we think makes us look cool, take a career break to travel, say what we think, and wear a pair of Converse Chuck Taylors to work instead of black dress shoes. I get it, we are different.
Regardless of whether you agree with how we look, you are stuck with us. Every year we make up more and more of the workforce so it is in your best interests to understand us. When you do, you will realize we are not that bad and we can be led for the right reason, of course.
Let me explain in simple terms why millennials quit leaders who do not understand or appreciate them:
There is no meaning in it
Millennials have been brought up on picture quotes, memes, and Harry Potter where for some strange reason, we are looking for meaning. We have seen our parents chase the so-called ‘American Dream’ of homeownership, 2 cars, 2 kids, and a perfectly groomed dog ready for the Saturday dinner party with the Jones’s. For some reason, this doesn’t seem to give our parents any meaning and as a generation, we have learned to question everything.
Millennials are discovering minimalism, freelancing, entrepreneurship, side hustles, life without a mortgage, and even life without children. Anything goes because we all derive meaning from different things. Unless you can help show us how the work we do will give our life meaning, we will quickly become disengaged, take the paycheque and then find a way to quit so we can do work that has meaning.
We like solving interesting problems
When you understand that we chase interesting problems that have meaning in our lives, you will understand how we choose jobs and why we quit. A frustration, for a millennial, can become our entire career or the reason we get out of bed every day. Something as simple as ordering a taxi using our phone can be game-changing for us and a problem we are willing to dedicate some part of our career towards notice how I didn’t say ‘whole career’ because we tend to chop and change between the problem we enjoy solving.
You obsess over titles and hierarchy
We are focused on one thing: who can get things done? Millennials worship the doers more than we will ever worship someone who has a title but can’t do anything resembling work or see the most obvious problems and decide to help solve them. Ten years at one company, while chasing promotion after promotion, doesn’t make sense to us. We want to work for multiple companies and acquire new skills in the process. Having the corner office, the black suit, and the executive car that comes with hierarchy seems weird to us.
We choose what title we give ourselves.
We choose titles like change-maker, blockchain enthusiast, wannabe entrepreneur, Chief Love Officer, and half-time developer. Our title says something about who we are and what we stand for not authority or hierarchy or importance or ego. We can be a CEO tomorrow of our own company that makes $20 a year if we want to and we completely don’t care what anybody else thinks.
Numbers in a spreadsheet are boring
Cogs, EBITDA, or ARPU are all nap-worthy financial terms that appear in spreadsheets and are thought of by the older generations as a reason to come to work or a way to track performance. Of course financial metrics matter but they should never be worshipped like a statue of Michael Angelo’s David. Us millennials care about what is behind the numbers and how the numbers change people’s lives. We use the numbers as a way to measure impact and we don’t obsess over them in the same way. We see the numbers as a measurement of happiness, culture, and meaningful work.
Culture is better than money or perks
You would think the highest salary wins when millennials go on the job hunt. Turns out it is not the deciding factor and you can’t buy us with poor leadership. You can offer the office fruit, snacks, ping pong tables, alcohol, and beautifully furnished offices with waterfront views but we will still choose the culture and people we like above all of that. We would rather work in an abandoned warehouse on a pile of milk crates, with people we would die for, than work in a corporate office that has the atmosphere of a cemetery full of dead people waiting to retire and collect their cheque/gold watch.
Flexibility needs to be okay
Because, as I said, millennials want to be able to explore the possibilities. What would it look like working four days a week? What do compressed working hours mean? What if we want to spend a few hours a month sitting with another department? If you are not open to flexibility, you are going to get a rude shock because plenty of companies including your competitors are open to it and that could be enough for us to quit.
Travel is in our DNA
So let us buy extra annual leave with our salaries, take time off, travel as part of our work to visit customers and other offices, and don’t hold this false idea that you can shackle us down for years on end. It won’t work.
We hate being micro-managed
This management style tells us that you don’t trust us and we hate it.
We don’t want to be held accountable to a stopwatch and would rather focus on results than minutes worked. This style of management is something that we think belongs back in the days of factory workers who ride a horse and cart to work. Millennials can’t be creative when we have someone breathing over our shoulder and asking their permission for everything we do. With inspiring leaders being the rage, we no longer have to choose micromanagement.
Treat us well and we will treat you even better. Understand how we think and we can work together to do work that will be remembered long after we have left this planet. Treat us badly, and you already know what will happen. The time is now to change the way you lead.
The Millennial Generation