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A Millennial Response To Talia Jane's Letter To Yelp CEO: Takeaways For Millennials And Management

February 2016


Over this weekend, an open letter to the Yelp CEO went viral on Medium. The letter was written by Talia Jane, a 25 year old who worked in customer service at Yelp/Eat24. The post breaks down Talia’s experience at Yelp and a list of grievances for her employer, including, low compensation, lack of company provided amenities (snacks), and poor communication from management. Several hours after her post was published on Medium, Talia announced that Yelp has terminated her employment. Yelp has since announced the decision was not a direct response to her Medium’s post.

The letter is now trending as the #1 Top Story on Medium and covered by Business Insiders, Re/code, and Quartz. The resounding agreement from all of this buzz is that tech companies in the Bay Area should provide their employees with a livable wage. As a Millennial who is studying and working in the area, I strongly believe that every tech company should take the initiative from this letter to have an open dialogue with their employees and respond to this problem head-on. However, the underlying issue that has yet to be discussed from this letter is the imminent workforce clash between Millennials and today’s Gen X and Baby Boomer employers. Rather than pursuing who’s right and who’s wrong, here’s a holistic response to both parties.

Millennials: We Need To Own Our Decisions And Take Action 

Millennials are often described by mass media as the most narcissistic generation due to the way they use social media. This stereotype combined with articles like Talia’s has pushed Gen Xers and Baby Boomers to view and classify (all) Millennials as the entitled generation. A generation that only complains and takes no ownership over their decisions.

For many users on Medium and on social media, Talia’s letter felt like a list of complaints more than an open dialogue with her employer. Rather than focusing her letter on a Yelp’s compensation along with livable and higher minimum wages, Talia went on to berate Yelp for many other things such as not providing enough snacks. At the end of her Medium post, Talia also included her PayPal and Venmo contacts asking for potential donations from readers now that she is terminated from Yelp.

One Medium user commented, ”Don’t complain about a situation you put yourself in. Yes, moving to one of the most expensive areas for a minimum wage job was your decision.” I know many friends and peers who graduated from UC Berkeley and have decided to live within their means as they finish out the first few years of their entry-level job. Living within means meant moving back home (if that is an option), housing with a roommate, having longer commutes, and evaluating and accepting only jobs in locations that could pay a livable salary.

Being a Millennial who grew up from a low income background, I understand Talia’s sentiment with finding a fulfilling job that pays a livable wage. As a matter of fact, my only fear entering college was not being able to find a job to support myself after graduation. During my freshman year, I applied to roughly about 50 on-campus jobs and got rejected to all of them. I quickly realized my lack of experience and poor communication skills. That following summer, I spent a tremendous amount of time working at my first unpaid internship while building up my experience in communications and marketing. Thankfully, through juggling several work-study jobs and internships along with networking throughout college, I have been able to find a career that is fulfilling, both financially and career-wise.

The moral of my story? Millennials should take actions over their circumstances instead of using social media to vent their frustrations.  I do, however, believe that Millennials have good intentions and are trying their best to survive in the current economy where college debts are rising and the job market tightening. This is not an excuse, but I ask other generations to be patient with Millennials. On the other hand, Millennials (especially those who are still in college), please take ownership over your situation and go find ways for self improvements if you are worried about your post-graduation career. One of the most valuable resources out there? Previous generations who have gone through the same thing you are facing right now. Go out and find these mentors on LinkedIn or in your community, and learn from them.


Companies: Millennials Want To Be Heard

On the flip side, Talia’s story is the epitome of how the current Millennial integration into the workforce will provide challenges to management teams in the years to come. The big question of 2015 (and still this year) is how companies are planning to manage and engage with Millennials as they enter the workforce and work with Gen Xers and Baby Boomers.

At the end of the day, Millennials want to find a company that aligns with their values while providing challenging and interesting work. However, this fulfillment could only be achieved if basic needs such as a livable wage have been met. Most importantly, Millennials want to be heard and be part of the decision making for their company, even at a grassroots level. The Millennial workforce seeks transparency and visibility with management. Unless Gen X and Baby Boomer employers can understand the Millennial mindset, talent turnover and retention will become growing business pain points in years to come.

Talia’s primary source of frustration came from management not listening or responding to her feedback in a constructive manner, ranging from providing a livable wage to piloting local CSR initiatives. Like other Millennials, Talia took action (by directly communicating to her manager and CEO in the past) for what she cared about most. Despite Talia’s approach of publicly shaming Yelp, her letter has shined a spotlight on a topic in tech that is usually overshadowed by news of innovation, i.e. smart cars,  virtual reality. Minimum and livable wages in the Bay Area will undoubtedly be this week’s water cooler conversation.

Can Yelp and other companies avoid similar publicly shaming letters like Talia’s in the future? As more Millennials enter the workforce in the coming years, companies must develop and provide channels for Millennial workers to voice their feedback. CEOs and managers can no longer lead from the top down—they must foster a culture where open dialogues are encouraged.  I see Talia’s letter coming from a place of frustration and desperation after multiple communication attempts with management have failed. People, especially Millennials, only go to social, once all other communication channels have failed them. However, did this give her a free pass to air her grievances about her current employer on a public setting like Medium? No.

Parting Thoughts

There are two sides to this story on social media_ those who support Talia’s courage for writing the letter and those who label Talia as an entitled Millennial. Rather than having an open dialogue on this issue, both camps are fueling the disconnect between the three generations of Millennials, Gen Xers, and Baby Boomers.

In the real world, businesses do not label their workforce with generational tags. All three generations will have to learn to integrate and work together. Millennials, take ownership over your career and go out there to self improve yourself. Gen X and Baby Boomer managers and employers, be patient with Millennials, give them your support, and provide a communication structure to listen and respond to their feedback.



This article was written by Tai Tran from Forbes. This reprint is supplied by BNY Mellon under license from NewsCred, Inc.  

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