- Wise Words -
Stop with the "entitled" chat.
Instead help the new rat race entrants.
by fergus mellon
So far this summer we are through Memorial Day and Independence Day as well as the Hallmark holidays for dads & grads and are closing out back-to-school season. We are also in the middle of an American landmark deserving official celebration: commencement of the rat race.
For the “lucky” members of this year’s graduating class who secured professional employment, they will either have just started their first job or be about to. These poor rat racers will be working to fund retirement, pay off Greek levels of student debt (without even the option of default) and deal with ever increasing housing and health care costs. Not a great mix. These poor souls will be working for 45-plus years, or until the robots replace them!
While fashionable to bash Millennials as being entitled, coddled and unrealistic, this is overdone. Yes, new entries to the workforce come with high hopes but this is a rite of passage.
So let’s cut these rat racers some slack and work to engage them: They are not just ambitious but also rightly intimidated by their situation. We should start by changing the label: from “Entitled Millennials” to “Early Stage Professionals,” ESP for short.
How managers can coach the new rat racers. Getting to Win/Win/Win
Take nothing for granted. What seems obvious (for example: using a real conversation to solve issues instead of a virtual “chat”) is not so obvious to an ESP who grew up “digital.” When you see a struggling ESP engage in too much virtual communication, explain that to be effective they need to find solutions to problems in the workplace, and the best way to do that is in person.
No need to make them feel stupid. Instead give the context: Email is great at distributing information, but not a tool for collaboration. When I take the time to explain not just the “what” but also the “why,” I see the light bulb moment: “Oh, I get it now.”
Millennials have begun their 45+-year rat race.
This applies to all the skills and behaviors that we have honed as professionals: Limit office politics, hold the gossip, partner with your manager, etc. It may seem obvious, but your ESP has spent his or her life in the safe environments of home, school and college.
Think: “If I explain this for five minutes, I will have a more effective member of my team.”
Listen. While some ideas may be impractical, listen! Encouraging members of your team to share ideas will benefit you. The ESP could come up with a new approach to some thorny issue.
You may be presented with a wacky idea, but it is still worthwhile walking through why the idea won’t work. Don’t just say, “Nope. Bad idea.” Instead, explain why. If it is truly impractical, ask the ESP how they would implement it. When the bright ESP goes into the practicalities, it will be another light bulb moment for them. They will know they need to be smarter about what they propose.
Increase promotion opportunities. Instead of making a promotion something that ESPs must kill for, focus on a title that meets your goals of motivating and retaining them. This is not about making someone a vice president at 25. Instead establish a midway point between two existing titles. If you have a position for analyst (first five years) and then senior analyst (five years-plus) you do not have to lessen the senior analyst role by promoting your ESP too early. Introduce an “advanced analyst” title that recognizes their successes and early commitment to your company. Sure, it may come with a salary increase, but isn’t this a fair price to pay for a more motivated employee who will stay with your company and so reduce the number of ESPs you have to onboard?
A workers celebration
Finally, welcome our new colleagues properly to the workplace. Host a happy hour, invite them for coffee, to “important” meetings, which helps in their training and they feel part of the big decisions.
Three cheers, then, to another great but unofficial American holiday: the commencement of the 45-Year (Rat) Race. On second thought, let’s roll this into the celebration of work that is Labor Day!
Related columns: "Welcome the Newbies", "Think of your career as a journey", "Questions to ask your new manager" and see the "Crushing It" section for tips on how to succeed in your first job.