Why Millennials Quit: A Letter To Incompetent Leaders

Tim Denning
Mar 25, 2019 · 6 min read

We’ve 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’m a millennial, and not everyone who is older than me understands why we quit. I thought I’d explain it to those who may not understand.

In one sentence, millennials quit incompetent leaders not companies.

Here’s my letter to those leaders.

Dear incompetent 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’re obsessed with social media, we post weird and wonderful things online, we’re not afraid to share our thoughts even if it get’s us fired and we’re ‘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’re different.

Regardless of whether you agree with how we look, you’re stuck with us. Every year we make up more and more of the workforce so it’s in your best interests to understand us. When you do, you’ll realize we’re not that bad and we can be led (for the right reason, of course).

Let me explain in simple terms why millennials (like me) quit incompetent leaders:

There’s no meaning in it

Millennials have been brought up on picture quotes, memes and Harry Potter where for some strange reason, we’re looking for meaning.

We’ve seen our parents chase the so-called ‘American Dream’ of home ownership, 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’ve 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’ll quickly become disengaged, take the pay cheque 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 a meaning in our lives, you’ll 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’re 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’re focused on one thing: who can get shit 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, block chain 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 give a crap 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’s 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’d think the highest salary wins when millennials go on the job hunt. Turns out it’s 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’ll still choose culture and people we like above all of that.

We’d rather work in an abandoned warehouse on a pile of milk crates, with people we’d 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

Cause, like I said, us millennials want to be able to explore the possibilities.

What would it look like working four days a week? What does compressed working hours mean? What if we want to spend a few hours a month sitting with another department?

If you’re not open to flexibility, you’re 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 stop watch 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 micro management.


The Millennial Generation

Treat us well and we’ll treat you even better. Understand how we think and we can work together to do work that will be remembered long after we’ve left this planet.

Treat us badly, and you already know what will happen.

The time is now to change the way we lead.

This story is published in The Startup, Medium’s largest entrepreneurship publication followed by +437,678 people.

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Tim Denning

Written by

Aussie Blogger — Writer for CNBC & Business Insider. Inspiring the world through Personal Development and Entrepreneurship. www.timdenning.net

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