Workplace Rights

Weekly (7/13/09)

Topic of the Week  Hey, Mr. Wilson - Managing Today's Younger Generation of Workers

Managing younger workers:
• DO show them you care.
• DO help them keep score.
• DO give rewards in small increments.
• DON’T leave them alone.

911 Repair,
It’s challenging to manage members of a new generation. They have different values, motivations and most understand technology better than you ever will. To get the most out of your younger employees it’s not that tough, you’ve just got to put in the effort to understand them. Which reminds me of the ultimate irony for the baby boomers, Jerry Rubin’s observation that “You can’t trust anyone over 30.”

Just when you get used to working with Gen-X, there is a new game in town. Millennials or Gen-Y. Although I prefer the echo-boom generation, because it’s important to remember that this is another big one, a generation that has the chance to shake things up just like the original boomers did. Welcome to the view from the other side of the trust divide. For more information, check out Bruce Tulgan’s new book, “Not Everyone Gets A Trophy” (Jossey-Bass, 2009).

DO show them you care. This generation doesn’t want a friend or a parent (Let’s all say amen to that one!). But they did grow up being the center of attention, hence the title of Tulgin’s book. We can debate all day if the sixth place softball team deserves a trophy, but this generation got one anyway. So don’t scrimp on the acknowledgements, especially if you want them firing on all cylinders. Because they are so technologically sophisticated, recognition should take many forms; text, IM, memos, but don’t forget the retro and obvious, face-to-face.

DO help them keep score. Millennials really like to know where they stand. Heck, this is the generation that came of age during Web 2.0, the rise of user-generated feedback. As much as they like to provide feedback, they may even like it more when they are on the receiving end. Provide them plenty of tools to monitor their performance along with informal and formal rewards based on really getting the job done.

DO give rewards in small increments. Tulgan is a big proponent of giving rewards and bonuses in little increments rather than in one big check. The big reward can fade over time while the more incremental approach can provide on-going motivation.

DON’T leave them alone. This is one of the biggest misunderstandings of the Millennial generation, that they like to be left alone. Sure they like freedom, but they also appreciate boundaries and structure too. When you are giving assignments be sure that there are clear goals detailed, but also specific deadlines along the way that have measurable benchmarks. Come to think of it this is important for all employees, but it can really help you to get the most out of your younger staff members.

Boomers, remember how you demanded that your parents generation give you the respect you felt you deserved? The least you can do is return the favor. Ironically you’ll also get a lot more work done too.

About the Author: Bob Rosner is a best-selling author and award-winning journalist. For free job and work advice, check out the award-winning If you have a question for Bob, contact him via

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