Tuesday, October 21, 2008

You Raised 'em, Now You Manage 'em

Horrified Baby Boomers are waking up to the fact that the little darlings they raised to be oh, so special, are now entering the workforce in great numbers -- and still think they're pretty darned special. As the author Ron Alsop reports in a Wall Street Journal adaptation of the book, "The Trophy Kids Grow Up: How the Millennial generation is Shaking Up the Workplace," the little darlings aren't quite so endearing when they're someone else's.

Human Resources managers are finding that members of the Millennial Generation, born between 1980 and 2001, have no lack of self esteem. Indeed, like the inhabitants of Lake Woebegone, everyone is above average. And they feel entitled -- at least HR managers see them that way. Compounding their sense of superiority, Millennials (also referred to as the GenY generation) figure they can get away with being demanding because retiring Baby Boomers will leave such a huge void in the workplace.

Millennials need loads of attention, guidance and continual positive reinforcement -- just like they received at home -- and they don't respond well to criticism. Just like at home. Writes Alsop: "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."

Employee retention will be a special challenge. These "workplace nomads" have zero corporate loyalty. They're confident of being able to find a new job, and they figure they can always move in with mom and dad if they run out of money. They're less willing than previous generations to "put in their time." If their quest for opportunity and reward in the corporate world is stifled, many think they can launch their own business.

I have to say, I've been favorably impressed by the young people working in my new workplace, The Boomer Project. But then, we're a small, non-hierarchical organization where employees are given a lot of latitude. I'll be interested to see whether or not Alsop's findings ring true.

Meanwhile, two Millennials of my own have entered the workforce. Needless to say, I find them intelligent, attractive and... special. But I do sometimes wonder what I have unleashed upon the world.


CathyS said...

"These "workplace nomads" have zero corporate loyalty." In the years they have been alive, they've seen almost every Fortune 500 company lay off their parents generation to downsize and rightsize. Why should they have loyalty? Besides, I'd much rather see a workforce that has confidence it can depend on itself as opposed to mother corporation. I work mostly with contract labor and this generation knows what the 1099 form is.

Groveton said...

Every generation sucks. Oor parents', ours, our kids. Time to get over this. Every generation has its strengths and weaknesses. Loyalty is not a strength of the Millennials. By the way - I have four sons who qualify as Millennials and one two year old son. What generation is my two year old in? Does it have a name yet. If not, I'd suggest the finger wrappers.

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