As I talk to Gen Yers across the country about their corporate experiences – the good, bad & ugly – the same things keep coming up in the conversations.  It doesn’t matter if I talk to someone who works for a Fortune 500, Fortune 1000, a major hospital or international law firm.It doesn’t matter if they are female or male, white, black or Asian.  Gen Yers clearly see that there’s value in working in a corporate structure but they are also torn by some of the more frustrating things they witness as well. 

In a nutshell, the top 3 things Gen  Yers appear to like & dislike about corporate America are:

The Likes

  • Opportunities to move around the company & learn new functions
  • Company benefits especially in the area of tuition reimbursement & perks
  • Flexibility in getting work done (e.g., working from home, etc.)

The Dislikes

  • Lack of clarity on what they need to do to get to their next career level
  • Lack of direction in how to perform their job – a sink or swim mentality
  • Managers & leaders who are distant & removed & don’t mentor them.

Overall, I hear a lot more dislikes than I do likes but I think that if I were to interview anyone in corporate of any age I would get the same thing.  What I find interesting & different about Gen Yers is that they want to find what works for them sooner rather than later.  Time & time again, Gen Yers share stories of how their parents (aka Baby Boomers) have stayed in corporate jobs even though they’ve been miserable there.  They’ve seen how responsibilities have weighed heavily on their parents forcing them to stay in miserable corporate jobs until they are stuck & can’t leave.  They’ve seen firsthand how their parents have traded hours for dollars and have become wage slaves.

Gen Yers realize they too can get stuck if they are not careful and so they are choosing their next steps very carefully.  Most of the Gen Yers I speak to don’t have any plans to work very long for a corporation.  Many are planning & testing the entrepreneurial waters in their spare time.  Others are planning to work for smaller corporations where the hierarchy is not as steep & as layered.  Still others are joining their Baby Boomer parents in starting a new business. Those are the ones I was the most fascinated with.

When I ask them what percentage of their friends are unhappy working in a corporate environment, the average is high & over 60%.  Although people may be surprised at that number, anyone who has worked any amount of time in corporate knows that percentage to be accurate across all age groups.  I would venture to say that it’s higher for Baby Boomers.

Despite the fact that most leaders think Gen Yers are not loyal, I found that not to be the case.  Time and again, I heard Gen Yers say that the reason they stayed with their company was because the company had been good to them & they appreciated it.  The reasons they cited for their appreciation was usually one of the 3 listed in the Likes section.  The one referenced most often was the second – tuition reimbursement. 

My conversations with Gen Yers are unsettling to me because they clearly are committed to their job &  they want to do what is expected of them to move forward but often they are lost & don’t know what exactly is expected of them.  The lack of clarity, transparency & direction is making them get discouraged & they don’t know where to turn for help.  Instead of fighting an uphill battle and risking getting stuck like their parents, many are opting to try something different rather than accept the status quo.

I admire their conviction & tenacity & applaud their desire to find something better.  So many of us as Baby Boomers didn’t do that and as we get to the end of our corporate careers are filled with regret in not having done so.

My only question is: what is going to happen to the caliber of talent that stays in corporate if the best & most talented opt to leave because the dislikes clearly outweigh the likes?  Gen Yers are very open about how they feel & what they think about things.  The only thing they need is for someone in corporate to listen.  Are you listening?