Monday, October 27, 2008

Trophy kids

Good luck working with Millennials, writes the author of The 'Trophy Kids' Go to Work, an article in last Tuesday's edition of The Wall Street Journal.
"The millennials [young Americans, 18 to 28 years old] were raised with so much affirmation and positive reinforcement that they come into the workplace needy for more," says Subha Barry, managing director and head of global diversity and inclusion at Merrill Lynch & Co.

But managers must tread lightly when making a critique. This generation was treated so delicately that many schoolteachers stopped grading papers and tests in harsh-looking red ink. Some managers have seen millennials break down in tears after a negative performance review and even quit their jobs. "They like the constant positive reinforcement, but don't always take suggestions for improvement well," says Steve Canale, recruiting manager at General Electric Co. In performance evaluations, "it's still important to give the good, the bad and the ugly, but with a more positive emphasis." . . .

It seems that one young man missed an important deadline, and when his manager asked him to explain, he said, "Oh, you forgot to remind me."

I'm afraid I've seen some of these kinds of attitudes myself, but I had interpreted them as having to do with the individuals involved. But when I read the article, I suddenly came to the conclusion that I had best brace myself for some deeper disappointments . . . and, perhaps, some lessons in how, on the one hand, to speak critically in a positive manner.

I'm not sure I'm up to that task!

Oh. PS. That title--about "trophy kids"? That came from the following:
The millennials were lavishly praised and often received trophies when they excelled, and sometimes when they didn't, to avoid damaging their self-esteem. They and their parents have placed a high premium on success, filling résumés with not only academic accolades but also sports and other extracurricular activities.

Now what happens when these trophy kids arrive in the workplace with greater expectations than any generation before them? "Their attitude is always 'What are you going to give me,' " says Natalie Griffith, manager of human-resource programs at Eaton Corp. "It's not necessarily arrogance; it's simply their mindset."

Millennials want loads of attention and guidance from employers. An annual or even semiannual evaluation isn't enough. They want to know how they're doing weekly, even daily.
Good luck!
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