This week I was invited to join an exclusive selection of students, alumni, and faculty from University of Richmond’s MBA program for a Values Based Leadership conversation. We commenced at a coworker’s lake house and after networking a bit, we sat on the porch, overlooking the lake where the sun was setting, and immersed ourselves deep in dialogue.
What peaked my interest throughout the conversation was that it was a group of primarily Gen-Y participants, all who are working full time in their selected field, and we were each able to express a desire for this values conversation to be present in our personal AND professional lives. When the conversation moved to loyalty and questions like – What does it looks like in a company? Is it spoken about? When do we become loyal? – most of us acknowledged that we are loyal to a set of values or a mission, not necessarily the company. Dr. Richard Coughlan, the Senior Associate Dean of the MBA program, stated that loyalty for a company comes from when we “try out [company] values… and it works. So we try out more values… and it works.” And we eventually recognize that the company adheres to those values they’ve posted on the wall, and if we personally align with those values, we align with the company and share loyalty.
My go-to young professional expert is the Levo League, a growing community of professional women seeking advice, inspiration, and the tools needed to succeed. Their article, “Busted!: Disproving 3 Common Gen Y Stereotypes”, discussed loyalty: “[Gen-Y’s] loyalty is to causes bigger than our companies and with good reason. Recent economic times have shown us that few companies reciprocate their employees’ loyalty, forcing us to take more control over our careers.” That loyalty we align ourselves with is what causes the statistic by the Huffington Post to ring true: Gen-Y, on average, remains in a job for slightly over two years. This means we will have about four jobs before we turn 30. I am 26, and on my third job since college – I suppose this means I am exactly average (although I love this job and I am not planning on going anywhere!). And why have I continued to change jobs? A lack of values alignment, a desire for more challenge, a need for respect, and the knowledge that changing jobs would be the only way to move closer to achieving my dreams.
Gen Y was brought up being told to “follow your passion” – an internal driver that HBR attributes to our desire to move through roles when we no longer feel they fit us. My mother and father told me I could do anything and be anyone from a very young age. They supported me when I wanted to be a hippie, they supported me when I wanted to be a pro tennis player, and they supported me when I called them 6 months into my first job saying, “this job isn’t me!” Their support has fostered a confidence in me, one that makes me fiercely loyal to me: to my beliefs, to my values, and to my personal mission. And I, like so many other young professionals, believe there is a company out there that will create a dynamic synergy between my beliefs, my values, and my personal mission and the company’s beliefs, values, and mission.
So I ask, does Gen-Y lack loyalty? Or are we fiercely loyal to who we are and where we aspire to be in this world?