“What’s in it for me?”

Being a full-time Ph.D student, I also have a full time work that gives me unique opportunities for intellectual reflection and stimulation on how to become an enthralling leader. Recently, I came across a statement where I thought it could be worth sharing to many other middle managers like me.

“What’s in it for me?” A self-serving statement or a statement to reassess the sense of purpose?

Managing change is tough, but part of the problem is that in trying to initiate a change, many ‘leaders’ (or some called bosses) make common statements: “It is not easy to get people to work together as selfish peole are everywhere”; or “The management would like to change, but first, are the people ready for the change”; or “People should first put the big picture (Company’s goal) in mind, rather than prioritizing their own agenda.” To these leaders, they perceive their change idea is completely logical even if by sloganeering with an executive fiat. Trouble is, when the millenials ask “What’s in it for me?”, this question makes a lot of leaders cringe, or – worse yet – a question is often seen as a selfish, self-serving query.

But think about this for a moment. When we make decision be it in career, study or personal life, isn’t every starting point of any decision making process involves YOU, has to be you. Because let’s get this straight – if it’s not for you, then for who and for what? How can one possibly make a conscious choice and decision, if you do not even know your WHY for doing. The fact is, when this question was raised to the management, this is not out of disrespect. This is in fact a question from many millenials who seek for more information simply because they don’t want to be given work just to keep them occupied. They want to be sure their work matters in the larger scheme of things while knowing they are making a difference than their predecessors do.


So, if you being the upper management hear this question the next time, perhaps learn to embrace that gone are the days of viewing “What’s in it for me” as a selfish or self-serving statement. Because to millenials, this question is raised simply to suggest their positive attitude by assessing the sense of purpose for doing (no longer about cuz’ you’re paid to do so). More importantly, it is a display of how they value the openess of communication with a leader like you.

“Note to self: Knowing why you do and what you do fuels the sense of purpose to constant evolvement.”