Dear Sirs and Madams,
I know many of you think that I’m lazy and unmotivated. Many of you think I expect everything to be handed to me, and that I have no tolerance for the slow and steady path to success that has been the hallmark of your own experience. I know at least a few of you think the world shall be doomed in the hands of me and my kindred. You may have already found a few pieces of proof to confirm your suspicion that the Apocalypse is just around the corner.
But before you waste too much more of your hard-earned money stocking up on canned goods and dehydrated rations, I’d like to take a moment to explain why I am the way that I am. Because as it turns out, I actually want to be loyal to the people who employ me. The average tenure at a given job for today’s young people is actually higher than it was for our same-age peers in 1951. Repeat: we want to be loyal. But I know that’s not how it seems to you.
So let me tell you why.
I think the big problem is that some of you have forgotten that loyalty is a two-way street. People are not blindly loyal to their employers regardless of what their employers do; they develop loyalty slowly over time as the value of that loyalty is proven to them. If you’ve worked for a single employer for a long time, then your loyalty to that employer has become automatic because you’ve had it proven to you that your loyalty will be rewarded in various ways – raises, bonuses, stability, etc. Eventually you forget that there was ever a time when you weren’t loyal. I, however, am still trying to decide if loyalty is an intelligent strategy.
And here’s what I keep seeing. Pensions have all but disappeared. Wages have been stagnant for the past several years. The number of part-time or contract jobs (which come without benefits, by the way) have increased 400% in the last six years. Health care costs are outpacing inflation, and more and more companies are asking me to shoulder that burden alone. Oh, and social security is on track to run out in the late 2030s, which is right about the time when I would actually need it. It doesn’t feel like an exaggeration when I say that all of the incentives that have historically been used to foster employee loyalty are being stripped away. All of them.
So what do you expect me to do? I’m expected to work as hard as everyone else, but everyone seems to expect me to do it for less of a reward than there was even a few years ago. If you want to know why I don’t seem as loyal as you think I should, that’s a good place to start. The basic message I’ve heard my entire working life is pretty much the same message you would hear if your boss came to you tomorrow and said, “I want to give you a promotion. More responsibility, new title – less money, but hey! Responsibility sounds nice, right?”
I don’t mean to be disrespectful, and I don’t want you to think that I’m looking for excuses. I’m really not. Like I said before, I want to be loyal. But I can’t do it alone. So next time you accuse me of not being loyal, think about what you’ve done to make me WANT to be loyal. Healthcare would be nice but a pizza party would be a good start.
P.S. For more generational insights, check out my Us vs Them video.
P.S.S. I also wrote a letter to the everyone younger than I am.