Today’s Younger Employees May Not Be That Different


“Today’s employees are too rebellious.”

“They don’t care how they look.”

“They are just too impatient.”

“The young ones are not willing to follow orders.”

While these expressions may sound like descriptions of today’s younger employees, they were written more than thirty-five years ago.

Can we say “enough already” with lamenting the short comings of today’s young workers?  Of course, the under-thirty-somethings miss more work, are impatient, seek meaningful work, and are not apt to blindly follow policies.

But these things were also true of younger employees twenty, forty, fifty and probably one hundred years ago.  Why do fifty-year-old employees behave differently than twenty-five-year-olds?  Can we say “maturity”?   Older employees, on average, have more experience, more responsibilities and hopefully more wisdom.

Some managers, mistakenly in my view, agonize over whether they should modify their policies, job assignments, and leadership approach to accommodate talented, younger employees.

If your current policies and leadership climate are not appropriate for educated, talented millennials, I say they are probably not right for wiser, experienced employees either.

Take a personal interest in all employees, be clear about what you expect, put them in positions where they can succeed, provide training and support and don’t worry about their ages.

Why Good Employees Quit


“In thirteen years, I’ve worked for two companies,” Albertson said.  “Managers tell me that I’m a conscientious employee, and I’ve had very good performance reviews in all of my jobs.”

“Why did you leave the first company?” I asked.

“I was there six years.  I liked the work and I had opportunities for advancement.  I got a new manager in my third year and our relationship was shoddy.  He was a good person but always hovered over my work and was quick to second-guess any initiative I might take.”

Albertson continued to explain that his manager had very little experience in the tasks that he performed and tended to micromanage.  Albertson described his manager as a negative person and was not always clear about what he expected.

Eventually, Albertson left for a job in another company at lower pay.  Albertson has remained with the second company for seven years.  He likes the work and has been promoted.  Albertson says his current manager cares about him and is very clear about expectations.

Gallup polls show that seventy-five percent of employees who voluntarily leave their company do so because of poor relationships with bosses.  Employees join companies but they leave bosses.

 

How to Deal with Annoyances


“I know I’m supposed to be professional at all times,” a manager told me.  “But I’m human and some of my people get on my last nerve.”

“We are human,” I responded, “and we have human emotions.  Annoyance, frustration and even anger are normal emotions that all people (including managers) experience.”

I think it is important that managers, as well as employees, avoid letting the steam in their boilers build up to a red-alert level.  Even though we try not to get upset, we sometimes feel like we are walking in quicksand.

If an employee’s behavior angers you by lagging in late to meetings, say something like, “You know it may be small thing, but it upsets me that you are often late to our meetings.  The five minutes may be nugatory, but you can help me prevent an ulcer if you will show up on time.”

Often, staff members will strive to correct petty behaviors that ruffle their managers’ feathers.  But even if they don’t, it is better for all if we openly communicate our concerns.  If we try to force down annoyances, regardless of how minor, they don’t’ dissolve.  Most often, the irritations simmer and sometimes they erupt.

R-E-S-P-E-C-T is a Great Source of Leadership Power


By all accounts, Margie is a very influential leader.  Margie’s CEO said, “She has a way of getting people’s attention.  Margie’s peers often call her for advice, and I think her staff would follow her through fire.”

I asked a group of Margie’s employees if she offered rewards or used punishment to get them to do things.

“Not really,” one responded.  Another said, “I think she appreciates what we do but she doesn’t offer a lot of carrots for incentives.”

I asked if Margie was unusually persuasive or charismatic.  “I never thought of her that way,” came a response.  “She is professional and communicates clearly but I don’t see her as sprouting ‘charm.’”

I probed further, “In a nutshell, just what is the basis of Margie’s ability to influence you and others to do things?”

In differing ways, employees voiced respect for Margie.  They respected her knowledge, skill and integrity.  All agreed that Margie was honest and seemed to genuinely care about them as individuals.  Others vouched for her competency.  She has proven that she knows what she is doing and she will not ask you to do anything that she can’t do herself.

Earn others’ R-E-S-P-E-C-T.  It gives you more power than rewards, punishment, or position.

 

 

The Fish Rots from the Head Down


“I’m having trouble with my team,” a manager explained. “We make too many mistakes.  Quality is a concern.  We have too many accidents.  People miss too much work.  Today’s employees just don’t seem to take pride in their work.”

I asked if he would be OK if I visited with his team and he said, “Sure, if you think that might help.”

Several members said, “He doesn’t get here on time himself and he sometimes leaves early.”  Others’ comments included: “He doesn’t wear the new safety vests; says they are too hot.  Why should we.”  “He berates us about meeting schedule when he knows that some of the parts need reworking.”

When I mentioned these behaviors to the manger, he said, “I’m the leader.  Why should I have to do everything they do?  I have a reserved parking space.”

This manager apparently operated as a do-as-I-say, not a do-as-I-do leader.  Employees study their leaders constantly and leaders’ actions overpower their words.

You want employees to come to work on time; show up early yourself.  You want quality work; show a passion for quality.  You want people to work safely; demonstrate safe practices with your behavior.  Teams, like fish, rot from the head down.

 

You Can’t Make a Silk Purse Out of a Sow’s Ear


A vice president presented the following challenge to me, “I have an excellent division manager who knows our product and strategies better than anyone I’ve seen.”

“I anticipate a ‘but’ coming,” I responded.

“Yes, his people skills are among the worst.  Customers love him but he berates and embarrasses staff.  He is very argumentative with me and the president.  His vocabulary is filled with demeaning curse words.  Many have complained and three long-time, high-performers have quit.”

“I assume that you have talked to him.”

“Yes, many times.”

“So you want me to coach him on his people skills?”

“That’s right.”

“His behaviors are so hard-wired, he is very likely incapable of making significant, lasting improvements in his ability to work with people.”

I continued to explain that no matter how good you are at coaching, you will not likely convert a narcissistic-neurotic-whining-argumentative employee into considerate-cooperative-respectful team player.

When dealing with extremely disruptive people, my experience suggests that you have two choices.  One, put up with them the way they are; or two, remove them.

The “silk purse, sow’s ear” proverb—meaning that you are not likely to convert unrefined, dirty and base behavior into refined and desirable—apparently emerged in the mid-1500’s.  Some still don’t get it.

 

Do You Talk First or Listen First?


“In meetings, I ask for suggestions before I present my view,” a manager said to me.

“Why?” I asked.

“If I present my ideas first, others may be reluctant to express views that differ.  I get fewer opinions.”

Team members tell me that free-flowing discussions do not depend on who goes first.  Rather, the critical factor is how leaders react to opposing views.

One member reported, “Our leader always begins by asking our opinions.  However, he quickly attacks ideas that he disagrees with.”  The member continued to explain that participants tried to guess their leader’s view.  Those who agreed with what they believed to be the leader’s position spoke up.  Those who opposed remained quiet.

A member of a different team reported, “Our leader likes a good argument.  He tells you what he thinks and he encourages push back.  We have rancorous debates but there are no hard feelings.”

Leaders who create a climate conducive to openness are respectful of all suggestions.  They value opposing views.  Differences are never personal.  Honesty and freedom prevail.  There is no guessing what others think.  Passionate discussions are the norm.  The result is improved decisions and greater commitment.  Who talks first is not an issue.