Absurdly Driven looks at the world of business with a skeptical eye and a firmly rooted tongue in cheek.
I tend to meet Millennials when and where they're at their happiest.
This could be described as bars, after 6:01 p.m.
After their first few sips of kir royale or eggnog and soda, they turn to me to discuss the important question of the day: themselves.
I find this quite a soothing experience. It's like listening to the audiobook of an autobiography without having to put headphones on.
Given that I understand some bosses are getting rather tired of Millennials' i-handed attitude, I thought I'd distill the other side of the story.
For fairness and balance, you understand.
These thoughts are culled from Jessica, Claudia, Horace, Moses, Yasser (names changed for personal safety) and several others who have graced my path--one even bought me a drink--recently.
Here are the predominant forces (from my entirely non-scientific research) that drive Millennials to say sayonara to their employers.
1. They've seen what corporate life did to their parents, so they'll take it just in small doses, thanks.
Millennials are quite observant, in their own navel-gazing way. They've seen how their parents stretched their budgets to breaking point, in order to buy houses, cars, servants and the finest glassware Williams-Sonoma could offer and they've said to themselves: "Ew." Unlike their parents, they want to enjoy life before their bodies are 15.9 percent alcohol. And they know, from having seen their parents, that their psyches will begin to resemble a drawing by a pot-addled Escher if they commit themselves to 20 years of corporate drudgery. So they don't. This mirrors the way they look at relationships too.
2. They see through their bosses (and their bosses hate them for it).
Once upon a time, corporate life was held in mystical regard by those entering it. There were the suits, the expense lunches and the movies that made it all look so glamorous. Now the movies tell us that even tech corporations are run by barely socialized lunatics who suddenly luck upon a large seam of untapped desire and mine it largely for their own grandiose sense of self-worth.
Yes, there are still lunches, but you have to eat them in the Michelin-star work cafeteria. It's like a white-collar prison. Society once wanted underlings to respect their bosses. There was a status hierarchy that rose up to the stratosphere. Now, the Millennials have seen all the movies, read all the books and know quite often when the boss is talking bulbous bilge. This would be most of the time.
The Millennials' barely concealed disdain makes bosses a touch uncomfortable, especially the bosses who like to lord it over their underlings. The atmosphere becomes uncomfortable, so the Millennials withdraw their labor and disappear for three months to Peru.
3. Millennials look at the corporate world and understand how uncertain the future is.
Companies used to commit to their employees and, in some case, actually mean it. Now, Millennials have to look at their stock option documents to see whether, in fact, they're governed by Tajikistan law and can only ever vest for the period of a full moon.
Trust has eroded. American capitalist culture has, more than ever, embraced the notion that it's every human for themselves. Why, then, even allow yourself to feel loyalty when you know that you might be cast aside by a simple email or text? Yes, it's slightly grotesque when Millennials act all entitled and almost expect the company to provide for their every need. But isn't that what they see the CEO do too? And then he messes up and walks off with a remarkably large wad as a farewell.
4. Most of their role models got rich quick.
It's not as if Millennials enter the workforce and look up to see some 57-year-old man finally reach the pinnacle of his career by becoming CEO of Widget Parts Worldwide Inc. No, they see dudes who began shaving just a year ago suddenly worth a billion dollars. Isn't it both logical and blessedly human to tell yourself: "If I don't make at least five million in the next, oh, two years, I'm going to go study to be a vegan-inspired sculptor"? Isn't it entirely understandable that your expectations would be ridiculously inflated, especially given that your parents ridiculously inflated your ego from the age of zip?
Yes, Millennials aren't very good at grasping the obedience needed to be a team player. But aren't they merely reflecting the world they see around them? The true joy of teamwork has often been replaced by the true joy of being in the right place at the right time. Technology encourages them every day. If the culture is selfie-conscious, then the people will be too.
It's all very well telling them to conform to the system — and perhaps they will suffer later in life when they see that the system won't let them back in.
For now, though, try and admire that they want some joy in life too.
And remember, by the the time Millennials are in their 40s, the robots might have taken over anyway.