In the context of the Great Resignation of 2021-2022, young employees change jobs with increasing frequency and ghost employers.
Yet, what no young employee wants you (their employer) to know is that they too are anxious, trying to make sense of a confusing world in which their friends post dream jobs on social media feeling the pressure of getting fast results.
The Great Resignation
The Great Resignation describes the higher-than-normal quit rate of workers, especially young adults, that began in the spring of 2021 and continued into the aftermath of the pandemic.
The Expectation of the Workplace vs Reality
Schwitzer (2004) explains that there are numerous realities of life and rarely does one manage to live his or her ideal life. The maladjustment between one’s intended life and one’s reality often leads to disillusionment. Millennials have been introduced to unrealistic workplace expectations by social media and helicopter parents. Disengagement and turnover are the consequences of the internal confrontation of the Millennial and Generation Z employee with facing the workplace reality.
First Workplace Dilemma
According to Erickson’s (1982) theory of psychosocial stages, the person faces a crisis or dilemma that the person must resolve to move forward to the next stage of life and a lack of resolution leads to incomplete development. The workplace dilemma of young employees is distinction vs effort, which nurtures the virtue of resilience and culminates in a sense of place and an acceptance of timing.
Nevertheless, if the crises is not resolved, Millennials and Generation Z will find themselves in a loop. The exhibited Millennial Job Conflict Loop presents the perpetual consequences of Millennial employees not resolving the distinction vs effort internal conflict and transfering to the next job with the same unrealistic job expectations.
New Job – Same Conflict
The Millennial employee faces the same conflict at every new job. The employee fails to resolve the conflict and, in an attempt to gain prestige power and in the hope of receiving distinction in the short-term without long-term discretionary effort, changes jobs. Upon the new job, the Millennial employee faces the same conflict which he or she attempts to eschew by changing jobs once more. At the following job the same dilemma originates, maintain the employee in a never-ending loop.
All Employees Want Power
All employees exhibit some kind of will to power and wish to attain it in the workplace. Generational groups are perceived to be able to access different bases of power. Because of their position and life stage, Boomers have the most power as they occupy highest positions and have experience.
Young Employee Desire for Prestige Power
Considering that most types of power available for Boomers and Generation X employees stem from life stage and company position, it is unlikely for a young Millennial to access these bases of power. Thus, the only base of power Millennials and Generation Z individuals may access in a workplace dynamic is prestige power. Prestige power refers to acquired prestige and status. The desire is enhanced by social media and overnight successes.
Retreating and Ghosting as a Power Tactic
If not even prestige power is made available to the youngest generational group, employees belonging to these generations will retreat. Millennials and Generation Z employees do not have the arsenal of influence tactics employees of older generational groups acquired either through position or life stage. Thus, the alternative to retreating is proving themselves through discretionary effort as a long-term strategy. Yet, all studies show that younger employees despise proving themselves (Lancaster & Stillman, 2002; Toblitze, 2008; Twenge et al., 2010; Urick et al., 2017). Thus, the remaining option to younger employees is to retreat. Millennials and Generation Z employees exert the only power they believe they have and that is to leave when they desire. Ghosting employers, referring to disappearing without notice can be seen as a consequence of the phenomenon.
In the workplace, generations of employees experience different types of internal conflicts due to their characteristics, life stage and position. Ghosting you (their employers) is their only power move – so they play it.