I remember, a good while back when I was in a managerial/quasi-managerial role (just to keep it vague) in an investment bank, an occasion when anyone who was managerial/managerial-adjacent was brought into a half-day session organised by HR about how to deal with Millennials. The reason? We were having a lot of problems around retention for graduate Millennial joiners in our most recent year group, and we wanted to stop the rot.

The session covered the familiar talking points that the older generation typically raise about feckless youth. Millennials expect too much on coming into an organisation, when they aren’t ready for the responsibility. They don’t respect hierarchy. They require coddling. They’re snowflakes. And so on, yadda yadda yadda,

But I knew why the Millennials were really leaving. In the problematic year group, a few people had been placed, post-internship, with a part of the organisation that had been deemed non-profitable. They were laid off rather than places being found for them elsewhere. This was a violation of an implicit contract that this and similar organisations had at the time – while we might have a lot of churn and instability, we would not crap on people fresh out of an internship by making them redundant, no matter what. The norm would be that you would reassign them. They’ve been around for a few years? Fine, it’s open season. But less than 12 months after starting full-time work? Nope.

As a consequence of this norm violation, meerkat-like, all the talented individuals in that year’s cohort raised their heads, nodded at each other, and had changed their employer to be someone other than us before the year was out. I would have done the same thing myself.

I knew this because – unlike most of my colleagues in the managerial sphere at that organisation, at that time – I took pains to check in with everyone I was responsible for on a fortnightly basis. Yeah, I know everyone does this now but this was 20 years ago or more.

Much to my shame, I didn’t speak up during the session. I nodded along with everyone else, tutted about how terrible the Millennials were, and was working somewhere else myself before the year was out.