Isn’t This Just Business? Millennials’ Transactional Loyalty to Organizations and Why Organizations Hate It.

I often hear when talking with organizations and leaders about how ticked they get when Millennials leave them so quickly without too much thought and empathy for the organization.  Many of managers start to go off on how hurt they are by the lack of loyalty, lack of consideration, and fickleness on which the Millennial left.  They’re angry, sad and confused about why the Millennial worker moved on.

Let’s say the Millennial worker left out of normal circumstances: an offer on a better job, lack of good management, better pay, more opportunities, just not a good fit.  Wouldn’t we expect the same thing from an organization or manager making that move?  Or a savvy customer or client? 

And yet, organizations have been in an uproar about the hop-scotching that Millennials do in their career with very little regard for the company.  Why?  I’ve seen organizations let go of people left and right, level a whole department for a better stockholder return, move people into positions of little power to make them leave.  Unemployed workers talk about being angry, sad and confused about the lack of loyalty from the company for all the years the worker had put in. So, why are organizations and managers ‘hurt’ or blindsided when Millennial workers say, “we’re not sticking around for that, good bye.”  Isn’t it just the transactional relationship the employer/employee relationship has been built upon?

Isn’t it just business?

Why is there a double standard where the expectation for any generation of worker is to be loyal and considerate to an organization, while the organization is continually looking for ways to increase their bottom line and do more with less and in some instances fires people to get the job done?

One of the things I appreciate about the Millennial generation is how many of them look objectively at their workplace in respect to the whole universe of their life.  In Not Everyone Gets a Trophy, author Bruce Tulgan describes the Gen Yers (or Millennials) outlook on work, “Every step of the way, Gen Yers want to find a work situation they can fit into the kind of life they are building for themselves.”  This is counter-intuitive to how organizations have traditionally seen the worker who has wondered how they fit into the complex picture of the organization.  See the difference?  Tulgan goes on to say, “In fact, the Gen-Yer’s career path will be a long series of short-term and transactional employment relationships: ‘What do you want from me? What do you have to offer in return now and for the foreseeable future? I’ll stay here as long as its working out for both of us.’” Some of this attitude comes from the Millennials’ experience in adolescence a they watched their parents lose jobs, retirement savings, and their livelihood during the 2008 recession.  It’s no wonder Millennials take on a more business, I’m-leaving-you-before-you-hurt-me approach.

Maybe one of the things that organizations are mad at is that they are now being treated like they’ve treated people? For so long organizations have told workers to leave emotions and feelings at the door.  “Let’s keep this professional; it’s nothing personal; it’s just business,” are the usual responses we might hear from a supervisor dismissing a worker who has just been let go.  Now, the shoe is on the other foot.

Or, perhaps it’s that the Millennials have the gall to do it (leave) and do it quite professionally (not counting the ones who leave without any notice).  Do some of the managers who watch the young professional leave deep down in side wish they had made that decision a long time ago? Possibly a little bit of generational envy?

In this new era of work and as a more transactional, work-to-play generation fills the ranks of organizations perhaps organizations need to get more used to hearing from exiting Millennials, “It’s just business.”   I guess the alternative would be going back to treating each other personably, compassionately, saying this is more than just business and we care about our mutual relationship.