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March 20, 2015

Justin, exactly how would you like us to train you?

Read or skim in Entrepreneur this month the article "This Is How Millennials Want to Be Managed". It's a "happy workplace" piece and you can get its gist and message in a flash. We've all seen them before.

Finish it? Good. Thanks for reading. At the risk of sounding old, mean and cranky, let me make two quick comments.

First, in the last 15 years, my firm has hired, managed and worked closely with scores of Millennials/GenY--at least 100--and probably scrutinized even more members of that age group employed by my own clients or other law firms. I've also read maybe 50 misguided articles just like this one that urge us all to mold our people-management style at work to what certain generations, usually GenY, "want" based on their experiences growing up at home and how they were taught in school. While I want to know every single cultural and educational fact there is about each employee and team member, my obligations to understand "how they want to managed" are pretty close to zero. My informal advice to you employers--whether you're an older blue chip manufacturer with thousands of employees, or the next big player in molecular nanotechnology--is generally the same:

a. Get off your knees, you guys.

b. Ignore well-meaning writers and consultants who would have you manage people based a north star or "trend" other then your own vision and instincts.

c. Employees are important but they are "third"--after customers (#1) and the company or division you're managing or building (#2) to serve them. In service professions, clients are more important than any employee--and more important than the firm or company itself.

Second, I've been through the "we work better with constant feedback" thing with younger employees over and over again. Nearly 90% of the time--not all of the time but most of the time--that request means something quite different. It means that the requesting employees would like constant kudos and encouragement--think happy drumbeat or cheerleading--without negative criticism.

I know, it doesn't seem possible. I must be mistaken about what these employees would like as a "best practice" feedback. But that's what is happening here. The problem is obvious. A truly conscientious manager or mentor will never give that kind of "feedback". It teaches nothing, it dumbs down standards and, most importantly, it hurts customers or clients who have to live with those standards.

Thanks for listening.

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Posted by JD Hull at March 20, 2015 01:28 PM

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