Vetaal in the workplace – Millennial Loyalty

Vikram and Vetaal is the retelling of the Baital pachisi that was translated from the Vetaal Panchavimshati part of Kathasaritsagar, an 11-century work in Sanskrit. Vetaal in the workplace adapts the concept of Vetaal – a wise vampire asking the right questions after narrating a great story to modern workplace situations. This story is NOT from the original series.

The Story….

An often heard children’s folk tale of the pandit and the boatman comes to my mind. A very learned pandit one day decides to cross a river and hires a boatman. Looking at the gathering clouds the boatman warns of the oncoming storm. The pandit says, “don’t worry I have an umbrella”.

They decide to cross the river. The pandit on seeing the clouds swirling asks the boatman, “do you know about the galaxies and stars beyond this cloud?” The boatman doesn’t and the pandit says, ‘what a wasted life’.

They continue their ride when suddenly the pandit begins to sing and asks the boatman if he knows the raga. The boatman obviously doesn’t and the pandit derogates him for his lack of finer skills.

The clouds gather closer and it begins to rain. The river suddenly becomes violent and the boatman asks, “Panditji do you know how to swim?” The pandit does not. We know the ending to the story of course. 

The Corporate Tale…

Something like the pandit is Samay in our corporate story. Samay is a manager and leads a team of 23 millennials. One of them is Varun. A brilliant marketing executive who is quitting the organization. Samay has offered him a better package and even promised a promotion by year-end. Varun still wants to quit. The best part is Varun does not have another job ready nor is he from an affluent family. Samay just does not understand how Varun can turn down the offer given to him. 

Vetaal’s Riddle: What is Samay really concerned about? Why did Varun quit the job?

Samay and the pandit in the story are absolutists in that they only see things in terms of rights and wrongs. Thinking in terms of “my way” is right and therefore “other ways” are wrong is the basis for polarising any relationship, which quickly results in converting discussions into power struggles. Samar’s biggest concern is how come an offer that he would jump at did not attract Varun enough to change his decision. And there lies the problem, the lens is always Samay’s.

Through the lens of difference, the story from Varun’s point of view is very different. 

Varun is a brilliant marketer. He was 16 years old when he started a youtube channel. In the last 10 years, his channel has been growing steadily and has 100,000 followers. He has been marketing digitally for the last ten years. He is doing great. When he joined the Organisation he wanted to make a difference in the Organization’s online presence. But he is stuck in a team that uses traditional methods. More importantly, the team and Samay, his boss treat him like a fresher when he has ten years of experience running his own digital platform. Varun felt his creativity and his experience was not respected. He already freelances to a few companies and the lure to do more freelancing where his expertise is acknowledged was tempting. Varun quit because his ideas and creativity were not recognized.

The story brings to light two very important aspects of the millennial generation and therefore their sense of loyalty. 

  •  Meaningful work consistently ranks high among qualities craved by the millennial generation. The misunderstanding about Millennials that they are entitled and lazy comes from absolutist’s projections. Meaningful work for the millennials also extends to work and life balance. A recent Price Waterhouse Coopers research states “Millennials do not believe that productivity should be measured by the number of hours worked at the office, but by the output of the work performed. They view work as a ‘thing’ and not a ‘place.’”
  •  The opportunities provided by the gig economy are high. According to the Deloitte Global Millennial Survey 2019, Eighty-four percent of millennials and 81% of Gen Z’ers surveyed said they would consider joining the gig economy. However, for India, this figure is higher as 94% millennials.

What does this mean to employers of millennials? A possible idea is to work from both ends of this problem.

  1. Bring more meaning to everyday work with a shared vision, a creative culture, and flexible systems.
  2. To accept that a few will leave whatever the effort and to make exits comfortable so that people in the Organization feel cherished.

Please share what your organization is doing to manage millennial loyalty in the comments below. 

Do you have a leadership story to share? Drop an email to latha@drlathavijaybaskar.com 

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