Wednesday, April 29, 2009

Pandering to New Recruits

Fortune ran an article yesterday titled How to Work Better with Gen Y. I read the thing and I felt as if I was reading a piece of science fiction. It's not that all of the advice in this article is wrong, some of it is probably pretty valid, it is simply that the underlying premise of this article is ridiculous. The article gives managers advice on how to work better with Gen Y employees, as if these creative geniuses were god's true gift to business.

Here is one particular quote from the article which made me groan:
"Managers often tell Tulgan that Gen Yers make a lot of requests and demands. "I tell them, 'They're doing you a favor by asking for things. Once you know what they want from you, you have the key to getting what you want from them.' "
I am OK if other managers want to take this route of coddling, asking nicely and pandering to problem employees, but I am not going to waste my time doing that. I am guessing most managers would not stand for that either. Here's something you need to understand about the work place - whether or not you are of Gen Y age:

We don't give a damn.

Yeah, it would be nice if every hire we made was a good one, but most of us experienced managers realize that a certain percentage of our hires simply don't work out. When we hire someone, we explain what we want and set expectations. We expect that there will be a learning curve. We also expect a lot of questions and some settling into a work rhythm. What we don't expect is attitude. We really don't. We expect new hires to be responsive, aggressive, eager to work hard, eager to succeed. If you come in, act high and mighty, make demands and think that I need to please you, you are going to be out on your ass pretty quickly. 

Business is not about being nice and making every hire a successful hire. It's about achieving results. My boss expects me to deliver on my targets and that's the only thing I care about. If you can help me do that, excellent. You have a job and I will help you build a career, grow your skills and I will fight for you tooth and nail within the organization. If you can't, I will simply cut my losses and hire someone else to do the job that needs to be done.

If the writers at Fortune wanted to write a useful article they would write something titled "How to Work Better with Gex X and Boomer Managers". Do you think that I am wrong?

Here are some other career related PF posts:

A great post by Cash Money Life talks about resigning your job on good terms

Hundred Goals has a post titled why social networking doesn't work. Boy, I am clear on the other side of that specific argument.

Wealth from the Bible has an insightful post titled Staff Meeting with God. It's a pun. It's a good post, even though I am a professed atheist

Bob's Occasional Musings posts about 7 reasons to make a career in the military. I served, and view it as an important part of my career.

Enjoyed this post? Please consider subscribing to Money and Such by free RSS Feed or by email. You can also follow me on Twitter.


Dana said...

I listened to an interview not long ago about the Gen Y's constant need for affirmation and coaching, and that it's partially attributed to having grown up with parents that tried to instill self-confidence, but instead nurtured narcissism.

I'm Gen Y, and I understand where this article is coming from - although I find the timing curious and quotes highly unrealistic. Very few organizations would actually tolerate this kind of demanding behaviour. New hires are always in the minority and expected to conform to the broader culture.

Plus, given the current economic realities, it just makes little sense. Is this recycled from 2005? When the baby boomers were supposed to leave this vacuum in the workplace?

frugal zeitgeist said...

My feelings exactly: I'm not one to enable narcissim or juvenile behavior. In my organization, that will get you sidelined (and stall your career) very quickly.

Anonymous said...

I couldn't disagree more. We're not talking about overlooking performance issues or having a cry session to get in touch with our feelings, it's about getting the most out of every individual you hire.

Read Jim Collin's book "Good to Great", where he talks about the defining difference between average companies and those that are wildly successful. He uses a bus (as the firm) analogy: That average companies spend their time trying to get the right people on the bus, while in top companies the focus is on finding the individual the right seat. Of course lousy companies don't waste their time on people at all and constantly churn through employee after employee.

Think about that for a moment. You said "Business is not about being nice and making every hire a successful hire". This is of course a self fulfilling prophecy. Every single manager I've heard say this is an average to mediocre leader. Of course you can throw cash at people and they'll stick around for a while, but they'll let you fall like a rock when you trip up.

People know when you don't give a damn, and it's why great companies do their best to filter that type of thinking from their leadership ranks.

Shadox said...

Dana - could be a recycled article, I don't know.

Frugal - I have the same experience.

Anon- thank you for sharing your honest opinion, but I think you completely misinterpret the important notion of getting the most out of individuals. Companies should absolutely work with employees to make the most of their personal strength, put them in the positions in which they are most likely to succeed and to help them develop over time.

Great companies also don't waste their time on employees who think that the world should be handed to them on a silver platter and that have a sense of entitlement.

Employees always find it easy to blame management for their personal shortcomings, but I have always been a big believer in taking full responsibility for your success & failures.

You can be a completely no-nonsense manager and nurture your team to success, while also completely, and absolutely refusing to pander to childish behavior.

Lucas said...

(I originally posted as Anon @ 6:41am)
I normally follow the thought process of your posts, but in this case I just do not understand what you mean by "We don't give a damn" and "Business is not about being nice".

I would think deeply about those statements. This is language I've heard through the years from very demanding (and average performing) managers who were peers, direct reports, and bosses. In every single case they had somehow gotten off track and allowed a bias (generational or otherwise) to invade their thinking. This whole Gen Y, Millenial thing is of course a stereo type that unchecked may be the type of bias that can mislead even a seasoned manager.

The article does appears to be stale and not that applicable in today's economy, but great companies work hard on the people side even when they have 1000 resumes on file.

Asking for things is not being demanding. Being a prima donna after the boss says "sorry, no can do", will get you passed over or worse bounced at the first chance.

We agree more than we disagree. Best to you and I enjoy your blog.

Shadox said...

Lucas - as you said, I think we agree more than we disagree. I used the term "we don't give a damn" loosely.

Look, in an average day I am under the gun for deliveries on several projects. I would fight tooth and nail for my team and I see it as part of my mission to help them develop their skills and to grow their careers. However, I would absolutely not tolerate self entitled, over confident and demanding attitudes from people that did not earn the right to have such attitude...

It's not about a mind set, and it's not about being Gen Y or Gen X or whatever. It's about understanding that the work place is a hierarchical environment and it operates by certain rules. One of those rules is you have to respect your manager and understand that he or she calls the shots.

By the way, I completely reject such meaningless generalizations as Gen X or Gen Y. People are people and each is different. My main point was that the premise of the article about managers being required to appease tantrum-like behavior by employees was completely bogus.

Tom said...

This article is thrown off by this quote:

"They need all-day, every-day coaching, and it has to start as soon as they walk in the door."

I'm Gen-Y and I don't agree with that.

But I think you have the traditional management response. I have to produce results for my boss. No, a manager's job is to manage their people, because those people will produce the results, not you. Gen-Y sees right through this management style and will bail on you before you even have a chance to cut them. Yes I am stereotyping, but I've been there. It's up to you to figure out how to manage these people to produce the best results you need.

Shadox said...

Tom - first, let me repeat that no stereotyping is intended in my post. I don't believe that Gen Y as a unit share any common characteristics (except for their birth years...) - what I am writing about is the underlying concept of coming into an organization thinking that you can make demands...

The problem that I see in your argument is that as manager, I have options. I don't have to keep people who do not produce the results I want. Even if I decide to keep them, I most certainly don't have to promote them or give them bonuses or raises.

Sure, such employees could go elsewhere, but if they are going to exhibit the same sense of entitlement and require high maintenance, they will get the same treatment from management in that new organization as well.

People simply need to accept that the employee - manager relationship is not an equal one. There is a balance of power that needs to be respected. As employee, if you recognize this and work within it, you will thrive and get where you need to go. If you want to fight it, go right ahead, but don't be surprised to see your career stagnate.

Tom said...


I think the examples in the article are extreme and only fly in certain cases... a place like Google, where competition is fierce and constantly changing. I don't think you will be getting attitude, what I do think is you'll be getting a lot of people asking "why?". It might come off as attitude, but it's a legit question that, more often than not, needs asking.

Gen Y, in my experience, won't be questioning your authority, but how things are done. Managing how far you let that line of questioning go is the tricky part becuase it can lead to radical change, which, I'm sure you know, is extremely difficult on an organization, BUT leads to positive results. That's what I meant about management style.

I guess I'm coming from a different viewpoint than the article, but I disagree with taking a "we don't give a damn", "do excellent work and ye shall be rewarded", traditional management approach is not going to help. Management needs to realize that this generation is as big, if not bigger than the baby boomers and like it or not, the sheer volume of Gen-Y entering the workforce will force change, at least at the lowest levels.