I’m the most brainwashed, indoctrinated human being you’ll ever meet.
Some join cults. I joined the corporate ladder cult and fell in love with the devil in a pinstripe suit.
This devil promised me bigger paychecks, more status, and lots of office fun. As a millennial, what I got became my worst nightmare. Us younger generations are getting smarter.
We now see bigger salaries as a scam.
The modern-day corporate nightmare
I read a great article in the Guardian. It helped me realize why younger generations are no longer interested in bigger salaries. Really, the larger problem is that ambition at work is dying fast.
For most of my career I chased a bigger paycheck.
I wanted more money so I could buy the finer things in life. I thought all I had to do was go above and beyond and my corporate employer would take care of my skinny ass. Eventually I did access some of those bigger paychecks.
But when I got them they felt empty. It wasn’t what I thought.
Even more annoying is that the path to getting these promotions was unknown. There was no guarantee if I gave up time and my youth, that my employer would make good on their promise.
Often, pain-in-the-ass leaders got in the way of my career ambitions for a whole host of odd reasons I’ll never understand.
And the hard part is these roadblocks aren’t revealed to you.
Secret meetings just happen behind closed doors about your career and someone (often a leader who doesn’t know you well) makes a random decision. Then HR sends the “sorry to inform you but it’s not happening, pal. Stay on the hamster wheel a bit longer and we’ll see what happens.”
Broken career dreams. Broken promises. Broken system.
This is the modern workplace nightmare so many people have to live with. We’ve had enough so we’re changing because corporations won’t.
Here’s a quote from one leader that describes these times beautifully:
“Ambition used to mean a bigger paycheck, a bigger brand, a more senior position … Now I’d actually rather go and watch the sunset.”
Their job is to pay you the least amount possible
The business world mostly operates on a capitalistic ideology. Love it or not, I don’t care. It is what it is.
This model says that an employer should pay the least amount possible to maximize their profit and keep shareholders happy.
So giving you a sexy pay rise goes against the rules of capitalism. That’s why we have to scream and squirm to get promotions or have our salaries go up. This idea is starting to spread like a virus through platforms such as TikTok.
Bigger salaries aren’t part of maximizing profit so the odds are against you.
“We care about you” is the worst joke in history
Along with the false promise of bigger paychecks is all the fluffy corporate-speak of “we’re family” and “we care about you.”
Millennials have figured out these philosophies are a bad joke. They’re virtue signaling. They’re actually a form of marketing. Just like all those companies who changed their logos to a flag to support a cause they never helped.
How they think: Change logo to a rainbow, make more sales.
It should be illegal.
We know companies don’t care about us. When a bat virus hit, layoffs came thick and fast. When the recession started, layoffs arrived.
If corporations truly cared, they’d take money from the good times and reinvest them in their people during the bad times.
But they don’t because they don’t give a damn about you. Talk is cheap. Look at their actions.
What we want less of, for the love of god
Bigger salaries are tied directly to the overall theme of younger people having less ambition for their jobs.
- The Great Resignation
- The Great Reset
- Quiet Quitting
- Quiet Firing
… These are all modern phrases for we don’t care about ambition anymore.
We want fewer pointless presentations, to get rid of roll call presenteeism, better workload control, fewer toxic bosses who don’t have a leadership bone in their body, toxic office culture, and the need to sit on public transport for hours every day to show up at an office.
Living near an inner city office is bloody expensive. Seriously, get stuffed.
Then there are the rigid hierarchies and millions of approvals required to get a company to pay for a $4 cup of coffee for a customer.
The corporate rules are inflexible. They try to place employees into simple buckets and forget about the flexibility of human organisms who can learn, grow, and figure out problems in record time.
Here’s what will fix the lack of ambition problem
Can corporations really fix the problem?
They can for some of us. But for many like me, there’s no going back. There are better ways to earn a living and achieve your life goals than relying on a corporation that has different incentives from yours.
More millennials will choose other types of work where they make the rules — contracting, freelancing, entrepreneurship.
For the people who do stay in the traditional workplace model, the only ways to keep them motivated and showing up are to:
1. Forget company loyalty
Many bigger paycheck promises are tied to company loyalty.
This needs to die.
Businesses now come and go much faster. The data shows we’re not going to see the same businesses having a 100-year reign and monopoly anymore. So expecting us to stick around past a business’s best years is silly.
Treat us well while we work for you and provide value. Then encourage us to move on because we’ll do it anyway without your blessing.
2. Encourage side hustles
Side hustles are how we explore alternate types of work and perhaps transition from the employee model over to one of the others mentioned above. If employers expected this fact, things would be much easier.
Employers that encourage side hustles will have a competitive advantage.
When we don’t know what career path we want or what we want to do with our lives, right now, we try to get our boss or mentor to help.
The easiest way to solve one of the greatest career mysteries in history is to let side hustles solve the issue instead.
Normalize after hours experiments and small bets.
3. Promote creative outlets
Modern work lacks a lot of creativity.
Many of us work jobs where we’re glorified button pushers. The job has to get done — we get it. But the way to make monotonous work more interesting is to promote creative outlets.
These differ from side hustles because they typically aren’t monetized. Things such as painting, reading books, taking a philosophy class, etc.
Creativity may seem unrelated to our jobs but it’s not. When we’re creative in our lives it makes us happier in our careers.
4. Make family first
One of the biggest reasons we don’t care about larger salaries is we have to overwork and stay back to get them.
This means we skip time with our families. Those of us who have young families aren’t willing to miss our children’s lives anymore.
I’m about to be a dad. There’s no amount of money you can pay me to warm an office chair instead of having daddy-daughter time at home.
I’ll literally slap my fictitious boss in the face if he asks me to attend an 8 pm meeting about an IT outage (happened to me last year).
Family time is what gives us the motivation to hustle during work time.
We’ve found other ways to make more money
The coolest thing that’s happened is millennials have figured out we can work our asses off at a job and likely get nothing for it — or the leftover scraps of a salary increase that barely keeps up with inflation.
Or we can make money online, simultaneously sell our 9–5 job skills to a second company, or monetize our side hustles.
In these settings we have far more control.
It’s a permissionless economy where our effort is rewarded and the outcomes are data-backed, not backed by leaders’ random opinions.
Bringing it all together
Ambition at work is dying because we’ve been lied to for far too long by glorified corporate politicians full of broken promises.
And larger paychecks feel empty and lifeless even if we do manage to jump through all the invisible circus hoops like a good circus rat and figure out how to take home a few measly extra dollars.
Screw that. We’ve had enough.
If you’re reading this, give yourself your own damn pay rise and choose one of the alternate paths.
Pay rises are a scam designed for the assembly-line economy of the industrial revolution that some corporate leaders are still holding on to for dear life while screaming “please come back to the office.”
No. We will not.