On quitting from a millennial perspective — with love


Hi there. I’m a so-called millennial, an individual born between 1980 and 2000. In this article I will show insights about why we quit our jobs, and what you can do to improve your organizational culture towards more including practices.

Why is this important? Well, 75% of millennials will be part of the workforce by 2025 (FORBES).

Learning how to understand and work with us will be fundamental to keep the ball rolling for all businesses and our mutual depending lives. In the future, we will be your colleagues, your clients, and even your bosses.

Right now, there’re thousands of studies and data about how millennials behave and influence the labor market, but rarely something is written from our own perspective on work. So, I wondered if I could gather common reasons that made my friends, colleagues, and acquaintances quit their jobs to try and answer how can we be of benefit to each other.

Below you will find key takeaways gathered from 37 different people of why you and your company should start giving a shit, with some recommendations and best practices on how to do it.


Purpose & Passion

“[I quit because of] no clear sense of direction for the company. People pulling different ways towards different futures”

What are your company’s direction, mission, and values? How are you living up to them?

We need a strong grounded purpose to work for. You can be certain that we will look at your organization’s mission and values before applying for a job. At least I do, so give me purpose and I will give you my blood and soul.

Get ready to be questioned why you do what you do. We want a better world for people and we will try to shape those drives through our work.

“[I quit my job] because I don’t feel appreciated for my work, and the management don’t seem passionate about our product”

Leadership vs Management 🙅🏾

“(…) My bosses don’t have natural social skills, they are more business minded, there is no HR person or leading person with a humanistic role and who is a natural at working with and dealing with people.”

Are you managing a business or are you also helping develop people as individuals to seize their full potential?

A leader for us seems like it is someone who practices the company’s purpose-value-mission, that allows me to put all my passion in the process to deliver. It is someone who says good morning, communicates, listens, fosters my learning, and sees me as a person with a personality, not just a software operator.

Marcel Schwantes summed up as EMPATHY in his article about “Why Do People Quit Their Jobs, Exactly?”

Below a few quotes of what a leader is and what a leader does in some of our perspectives:

From a survey sent out to Hyper Island students and alumni (May 2017)

Diversity VS Inclusion 🌈

“[I quit my job because of] lack of inclusion, we got a big client, we were all supposed to be involved in the case since it was huge with a deadline closing in. Only the seniors were invited to the meetings, they were still expecting you would help out, but you had no idea of what had been said or what was expected from you.”

How cool is it to create space to hire international people, different backgrounds, or even interns to create a more diverse and colorful office. But are you actually including the lived diversity in your process?

“without inclusion, (…) the crucial connections that attract diverse talent, encourage their participation, foster innovation, and lead to business growth won’t happen.” — @Laura Sherbin and @Ripa Rashid’beautifuly writen HBR article about diversity and inclusion

Culture & Space for failure 🌱

[I quit my job because of] not enough feedback. No sense of self-development. Boring projects with no impact or purpose. Hierarchy”

How you communicate in your company matters, how you lead, how you relate with your employees. Having a beautiful manifesto saying things such as “be brave” or “be curious”. What does it mean to be curious? Are you giving the space for your employees to be that? Or are you tied up to the hour-rate of meetings and there’s no time to open space for bravery or curiosity?

“[I quit my job because of] no space for failing, feedback was given more as a critique, it took a tole on my self-esteem to never get feedback that I could work with and grow.”

How to improve?

Here are a few recommendations and best practices, with real-world examples from learning organizations on how to tackle some of these gaps and retaining talent:

1. Rethink your understanding of leadership ♻️

“Once you can lead yourself, you can lead others” — Kris Blimling

Starting with self-leadership. Understanding yourself, your projections and your own emotions will give you perspective to be able to facilitate relations between your teams and employees, allowing you to enhance personal and professional growth from you and others.

According to the World Economic Forum’s Future of Jobs Report, emotional intelligence will be one of the top 10 job skills in 2020.

Remember a leader is as focused in business as it is in people. A way to do so is to explore vulnerability as a way to create trust and empathy through feedback or team-building sessions.

2. How VS What ⚖️

As part of reflective space, working on your process and how you do things is more important than what you are actually doing. Taking time to reflect and discuss with your peers HOW you are reaching a goal creates a stronger sense of collaboration, sense of inclusion and supports personal and professional growth, which will automatically drive better results. I recommend the walnut model used by UGL and Hyper Island to practice that, explained by Ola Möller here.

Walnut Model, taken from "Things I learned from Hyper Island" by Laila Von

3. Shared vision 👁️

What is your shared vision? What is it that you want to create in the world? This is not just writing down on paper lots of beautiful words you think are cool, printing them, and putting them on a wall so everybody can see. It is about the real authentic spirit, where your employees can feed and add on to it. A common goal that everyone feels that they have ownership. It creates a sense of belonging to your employees and gives coherence and purpose to work for.

Here are 12 podcasts about organizational culture. Or you can learn more by reading Peter Senge's Fifth Discipline, or August's medium page.

4. Create a reflective practice space 🤔

Creating space for deeper reflection and understanding of the organization and the people that are part of it is fundamental. A few tools are through constructive feedback, using the learning spiral, applying the Johari Window, or working with Mental Models.

UsTwo and Spotify are examples of companies that apply these tools in their everyday workspace, they also publish their ideas and how-tos on their blogs.

HBR’s Building a Learning Organization is a good article too.

5. Build relations — dig deeper into your communication skills 👐

We are all creatives working with communication, right? Creating beautiful brand strategies, designing amazing experiences. But are you building relations with the ones surrounding or working with you? An example of how to do that is through team building. Creating a strong and constructive feedback culture that allows self-improvement and trust are fundamental in this context.

Team-building tools can be used for that purpose, the Hyper Island toolbox provides many concrete examples, also August.Co’s public drive has a very rich material that covers Feedback, Teaming, Diversity, and Capacity, and MindTools has lots of content on communication.

6. A diploma does not mean capacity or experience 🤓

My Adobe suite skills, coding, video making technique do not come from a diploma. They come from experiencing my gadgets, my phone, youtube tutorials, and work experience. Value us for our high speed in finding information anywhere, not only for a piece of paper that testifies we’ve been through a 5-year education that we will probably use less than half of the learned content of all the time we spent sitting on those boring academic chairs.

7. Go Beyond🚀

Break the norms- a leader, an employee can be (should be) someone that is different from the norm. There’s more beyond the white cis-male. Please, break your barriers and welcome intersectionality. Give space to diversity and equality. I can assure you that this approach will raise up empathy and understanding of the world.

Lessons in Inclusive Hiring

Demanding Diversity in Silicon Valley With Yammer Co-Founder Adam Pisoni (Podcast)

UsTwo's open source diversity board and here they talk about how it helps them thrive in business.

Wrapping Up

Organizations need to invest time to engage in our generation, we are demanding and in search of better experiences and ways of doing things. Openness and dialogue are fundamental to allow new possibilities to emerge.

Thank you Ouafa Rian for mentoring me and for all the people who helped reflect, gather content, and write this piece.

Searching for better ways. Design Researcher. Hyper Island alumni.