The Corporate Shift: How Millennials Are Changing the World

To understand the changes that are taking place in the workplace, one important factor to consider is the different generations. There are always exceptions to the rule, but I am referring to some general characteristics of a few generations that had an impact in the business world.

My parents’ generation—mostly baby boomers—were raised, for the most part, to follow a very clear, straight path. That path was to get an education, get married, and find a decent job to pay the bills. Many of them had the same job for more than 20 years and retired. They mostly viewed their “jobs” as just a means to make money and they did not question whether it was fulfilling or not. This was life as it was defined for them. It was selfish to think otherwise. They worked for money, and were respectful of and obedient to authority. They were grateful to have a job, especially one that many would desire. This was the mindset at the time. The companies gave them a feeling of stability; they invested in their people and were relatively loyal. Their generation also fought for some human rights and paved the way for a better world. I am grateful for that.

My generation started asking deeper questions. Is there a better life somewhere else? Do I feel fulfilled in my job where I spend 40-50 hours a week? How on earth am I supposed to act differently at work and in my personal life? Is this the life I want? It did not always feel right just to have a job. We started looking for fulfillment in our lives. The conventional path did not satisfy us. We started taking more risks. It was painful for our parents to watch us leave “stable” jobs as they saw it just because we did not find enough meaning or because our values were conflicting with the company goals.

In the meantime, some corporations started changing too. When they were striving to be the best place to work, proud to offer the best salaries, and hiring and retaining the most qualified employees, at some point, they decided to only pay attention to their shareholders. They lost touch with their clients and their employees. Employees became merely numbers or machines. They forgot that the only things that matter are human beings; the people working for them, the people who will buy their services, and their communities. They stopped being inspiring and felt like their employees needed them more than they did. It started becoming very easy to let go of people. Many of us experienced in many occasions that getting rid of office furniture in an office was harder to get rid of than employees. Even when businesses genuinely had to downsize to survive (I am not denying businesses exist to make money and there are times you need to let people go), they forgot to acknowledge their employees for all their hard work and accomplishments. People were treated like stuff.

The only things that matter are human beings; the people working for them, the people who will buy their services, and their communities.

My generation also started to become more conscious. Since we cared about the big questions, questioned meaning of life, and felt like we didn’t matter in many of the places we worked at, we raised our children to be different. First of all, we did not want them to make decisions to make us happy. To make sure they followed their own path, we gave them unconditional love no matter what they chose to do. They did not feel like they needed to please us for approval. We wanted them to make their own decisions, and realize their own value. We did not want them to feel like we did at work.

Now, unfortunately many are quick to judge Millennials. Some company executives label them “entitled.” “How come these kids leave so quickly when they find a better opportunity for themselves?” “They must be thinking only about themselves.” I wonder if we have a right to criticize them when these same companies cannot promise even one more day of job security. Is there any incentive to stay loyal? When they feel like they are being treated like numbers or witness their colleagues being laid off, what are they expected to do?

We are not talking about the ones who quit just because they are bored. We are talking about the young people who are passionate about starting their careers. Some are made to feel like they don’t matter right from the start. Good leadership, who can inspire them (there are more and more amazing and very successful companies that do this) and cultivate their talents and creativity, would greatly reduce the turnover rate. These kids watched their parents getting laid off more than once. They saw how it made them feel worthless. Rightfully so, they do not want to go through the same experiences themselves. They want to have more control of their careers and feel empowered. They want to change things more than my generation did. They do not think they have to tolerate everything. We don’t want them to be quitters. We want them to be fighters. But they also have a point.

Good leadership, who can inspire them and cultivate their talents and creativity, would greatly reduce the turnover rate.

Unfortunately, many of us have watched executives, out of touch with their markets and what customers want and clueless how to motivate their employees, make bad decisions over and over again. It only results in more suffering for their employees. In these companies, we see passionate people with crushed souls. These companies do not know how to recognize and use real talent. Brilliant young minds do not want to stay in environments like this. They do not want to pay the price for bad decisions outside of their control. They have to think about their own futures when they feel the company has no interest in them.

There is great news though! There are some wonderful companies emerging that are changing the workplace. They really understand the value of their people and the impact a business can have in their communities and in the world. They are getting rid of the hierarchy. They know that only employees who are free to express themselves and do what they love will make them successful. They are creating environments where the company, the people, their community, and the customers can all win. They know they are dealing with human beings all around and that it is the most important thing that matters. They are conscious, authentic, and have a higher purpose than only making a profit.

We don’t want them to be quitters. We want them to be fighters. But they also have a point.

I hope our kids find places like this to work or create more of these types of businesses on their own. I am really curious to see what will happen in old school companies that are not willing to embrace the change. They have no loyalty and young people don’t see why they should be loyal either. I just don’t know how this will work. I hope to see more and more companies making the shift. I love being part of this positive change that is taking place in the workplace because I know this is the right thing to do for all of us. We can change the world, one business at a time.


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Copyright: rahultiwari3190 / 123RF Stock Photo

After studying Business Administration with emphasis on Marketing her first job was at IBM. She worked for 11 years there in sales, marketing, and training. She worked a few smaller companies as a sales and marketing manager in San Diego, CA. She founded her first company in 2003 coaching others find their passion to live a fulfilled life and follow their dreams. Most of her clients are professionals who are in midlife trying to make a career transition and make decisions about their next step creating more meaning in their lives. In 2010 she also started her marketing and business consultancy business where she helps companies find their unique strengths, develop their stories, create mission and vision statements that inspire and move the employees, customers and their communities, find the human factor in their business and develop their marketing strategies and messaging based on these values. She is passionate about both individuals and businesses reach their best potential in a humanistic way. She is dedicated to be part of the gradual change that is happening in the workplace; created by good leadership that has values, clear purpose and prefers participation of all employees in decision making. Any company who embraces humanistic goals and approaches.

  • Very insightful, heartfelt article — great job! Let me give you one Boomer’s perspective on what you have written. The older I get, the more I feel that my generation was nothing special, and generations as such are nothing special. Most of what you say in this article was said virtually verbatim by many people in my generation when we were in our 20s and early 30s. Back then, there were companies that were great to work for and ones that were soul crushing salt mines. There were companies that made incredible contributions to the community and other causes, and ones that couldn’t have cared less. I think the same is true today and probably always has been true. Much of the rigidity toward employees in the 70s and 80s had less to do with generational values and more to do with technology. For example, before the Internet and smartphones, working outside the office was incredibly inefficient. So it was natural to emphasize putting in hours at the office. Today, people can work efficiently in an office or a bathtub. Not that generational differences don’t matter; they do, but aren’t unique to any particular set of generations. Younger people tend to feel the older people holding the reins are out of touch, insensitive, and perhaps in over their heads. As an older person, I welcome that perspective very much — without it, you’re working in a bubble and can easily get complacent.

  • PatFrame

    I remember when the Boomers were written about in the same tones as Millenials now are – there was a Fortune mag cover from the early 1970s I specifically remember. Sure they were different from every generation before them, and thus much the same as every generation. Agree the Boomers did wonders for civil rights in US and opened the door for changes in much of public life and for much of today’s technology. But as Brad mentions below, much is the same although the technology impact is different. Still I too enjoyed the enthusiasm of this article and I am a pre-boomer.

  • Brooke Ozlem Erol

    Thank you Brad Shorr for sharing your thoughts. I really appreciate it and always want to be open to different perspectives. I hope my article does not have that tone of finding fault with one generation over another. That certainly is not my intention. It is just about change that is inevitable. There is no good or bad. The generational differences will always happen based on many circumstances. I just meet too many people suffer at work and instead of accepting more people are willing to express it now. I was in a big meeting yesterday and people were asked to name their best supervisors or managers and many could not even name one. Not one inspiring supervisor in their 25 year career. I think we can at least improve this which will have an impact in the workplace. Thank you again with a lot of respect for your generation.

  • Brooke Ozlem Erol

    Thank you PatFrame for your comments. I value each comment and all feedback. I guess those of us who are hopeful want to see the new generations thrive and prepare a better future for themselves. I do not want to underestimate any generation. There is nothing wrong with any generation it is just different from what I can see now. We all just bring different qualities based on our times.
    Thanks again.

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