By Meagan Johnson and Larry Johnson
Adapted from their book:
Generations Inc. – From Boomers To Linksters, Managing the Friction Between Generations at Work. (AMACOM Books, 2010)
Steve is a Gen Xer who manages an office supply store and supervises a group of 10 Gen Yers. Steve was just visited by the parents of one of them who wanted to know why Steve had fired their daughter.
He explained that while their daughter was talking to a customer on the phone who had called to complain about a product, she told the customer to “f____ off” and then hung up on him. Steve said the parents seemed shocked that he would fire her for this and not give her another chance.
Kasey is a Gen Yer who has worked for a manufacturing company for six years. She was recently promoted to Sales Administration Manager.
Kasey says, “I never wake up dreading to go to work. As cliché as it sounds, we are like one crazy family. This is a fun place to work, everyone is relaxed and customers love us. I am constantly challenged with new things to do in addition to the items already on my to-do list. I have two bosses and I get feedback, mostly positive from one of them at least once a day. If they say something critical, they do it in a nice way.”
And that’s part of why I like this job. My bosses are a lot like my parents. They’re there for me when I need them, and I can tell they care about me. If it weren’t for them, I don’t think I would like this job nearly as much as I do.
Shea, a Gen Yer just graduated from graduate school with an MBA. At an interview with an international trading company, he told the interviewer he needed a flexible schedule. The interviewer assured him the company allowed working from home a couple days a month.
“No,” Shea explained. “I am a marathon runner. I do four or five races a year. I need to be able to take time off throughout the year to compete across the country. Also, I normally do my training at four in the morning before I come to work, but in the winter it’s too dark and cold then, so I’ll need to come in at 10AM rather than 8AM.
Do any of these scenarios sound familiar? Generation Y, aka the Entitled Ones, born between 1981 and 1995, accounts for over 35% of the workforce. In general, they were raised by aging Baby Boomers who had postponed having children until they themselves had completed their educations, sown their wild oats, and were financially secure enough to do this kid thing “right.”
So unlike their own parents, who stayed out of their children’s business unless their grades went down or the kids got in trouble, these late-blooming Boomer parents were often heavily involved in every aspect of their Generation Y children’s lives. The term “latchkey kid” was replaced with phrases like “stay-at-home dad, “soccer mom,” and “helicopter parents.” And like helicopters, they often hovered over their children’s every move. They arranged play dates with friends, scheduled extracurricular activities, helped their children with their homework (sometimes doing it for them), and made sure the kids wanted for nothing. Whether it was attending piano recitals, going to soccer games, running interference with difficult teachers, or even getting involved in their children’s’ college admissions and job interviews, these Boomer parents often catered to their children in any way they could.
Hence the aka: Entitled Ones. Let’s face it, if you’re raised as the center of attention, you get used to it and will probably expect similar treatment on the job. But that doesn’t make you a bad person or impossible to manage, but it does require some approaches different from managing Traditionals, Baby Boomers or Gen Xers.
Here are some suggestions:
1. Offer Close Coaching and Guidance
Kasey is a Gen Yer we interviewed who was recently promoted to Sales Administration Manager. She gets a yearly review, but also receives feedback on a daily basis from one of her supervisors. She’s responsible for all email newsletters and press announcements. Her supervisor tells her roughly what needs to be in the newsletter. Kasey puts it together and takes it back to the supervisor for review.
“He tells me what he likes about it and what he would change. He asks me why I included or failed to include some information, and he makes suggestions to tweak it. I make the changes and have him go over it again. He allows me to shoulder the responsibility but I don’t feel like I am going to fall on my face because I trust his advice.”
This approach may sound like coddling and micro managing if you’re used to giving employees free reign to perform. We think it’s an effective approach to use with Generation Y until they get their sea legs and prove they can operate without it.
2. Create Opportunities to Bond
One complaint employers have about Generation Y is, “They don’t seem to care about the job.” We would agree. Gen Yers don’t care about the job the same way many of us didn’t care about jobs when were that young. Given their close family upbringing, jobs that offer Y’ers a sense of belonging and a family-like atmosphere will have the most appeal to them.
3. Avoid the “good old days”
“When I was your age…” “Back in the day…” “The way we used to do it…” ” blah, blah, blah.” It’s tempting to reminisce about the past. Really, Generation Y can’t imagine being as old as you are, so stop rambling on about the way it used to be. Your responsibility is to coach them to succeed, not to relive the touchdown you scored back in high school.
4. Be Open To Virtual Work Environments
Baby Boomers live to work. Generation Xers work to live. Generation Yers don’t see work and life as any different – they blend into one. To most Baby Boomers and many Gen Xers, there is a clear distinction between working face-to-face vs. working remotely. A Gen Yer feels comfortable being at home at 10pm on a Sunday night, listening to iTunes, editing his blog, checking his Facebook page, and sending a report to a client with a CC to his boss.
The Bottom Line
Generation Y grew up with parents who spent time communicating with them, who praised them for even the smallest victories, who asked for their opinions when they were children, and who devoted time to making life fun. They expect similar services from their Baby Boomer and Gen X bosses.
You don’t have to coddle Gen Yers, but you do have to understand what they need from you to succeed. Get in the habit of checking in with them daily, offering praise when it is deserved and corrective feedback when it’s needed. Be specific about jobs and expectations. Offer flexibility in when and how they work, as long as they perform.
And have some fun. Managers and employees of all generations can benefit from that.
Larry Johnson, Author & Certified Professional Speaker Tel: 800-836-6599
Web: http://www.larry-johnson.com E-mail: [email protected]
Meagan Johnson, Author & Certified Professional Speaker
Tel: 800-836-6599 Web: http://www.MeaganJohnson.com E-mail: [email protected]