Older Employees May Feel Uncomfortable Working for Young Managers


Two employees from different departments were talking about their new managers.

“I know our new manager is smart and knows computers, but he is very young and pretty green.  He has a lot to learn.”

The friend responded, “Our new manager looks young enough to be my grandson but he has fit in really well.  Even our long-time employees respect him.”

When managing employees who are older, it is safe to assume that some of the old timers may be resentful and skeptical.

The manager in the first example made an early assessment of changes he wanted to make and he got management’s support.  However, when he presented his ideas to his team, many become doubtful and reluctant—he came across as insensitive and impulsive.

The second manager interviewed all his employees and got to know them as individuals.  He let his team know that his top priority was to ensure their success and well-being.  He asked many questions and when good suggestions emerged, the manager gave proper credit.  The youthful manger often used phrases like “What do you think?” and “How can I help with that?”

While young leaders cannot outrace time, they must earn their team’s respect.

There is No Substitute for Face-to-Face


“Some of my team members work in the office and some are in the field,” explained Tillford.  “People in the field seem to have difficulty understanding my expectations.  I often have to send documents back for corrections and updates.”

Tillford further explained that the office and field members were well-trained and, thanks to robust electronic media, he used the same format for communicating to both groups.

I asked, “Do field staff every come to the office?  Do you visit them in the field?”

“Field people come in every quarter for our all-hands meetings but I don’t get much one-on-one time with them.”

I said to Tillford that perhaps he should make time for more face-to-face contact, either by periodically visiting field offices or by asking field staff to travel to his office.  Because of the cost and inconvenience, Tillford had resisted doing this in the past.  However, because he was so frustrated with current performances, he agreed to try it.

Six months later, Tillford reported, “I can’t believe how much our communication has improved.  After just a few field visits, our understanding improved dramatically and field team members are performing just as well, maybe even better, than their office counterparts.”

Are Flexible Work Arrangements a Fad or a Trend?


What if there were no set work hours for employees or no specific places they had to be to do their work?  Would the result be extra “vacation time” for many employees?

Perhaps not.  Bill Gates said that the most important perk companies could give their employees is flexible work arrangements.

Bill Murphy, Jr., columnist for Inc.com, reports on several studies were productivity and efficiency actually increased when employees were allowed to work anywhere.   And there could be a savings in costly office space as well.

Many companies (Dell, Apple, Jet Blue, American Express, Amazon and others) currently allow some of their employees to work from anywhere at any time.

Still, I do not believe the work-from-anywhere option will spread like wildfire throughout the workforce.  Employees who work in factories, retail establishments, transportation, food service and the like have to be at specific places at specific times to do their jobs.

Further, even with our robust technical tools, teams that require collaboration may need to work in close proximity.  Reliable, individual performance metrics also help.

I’m sure many employees prefer flexible work arrangements–count me in this group–and I think we will see more companies embracing this practice.

Are You a Balcony Leader or a Basement Leader?


Employees in Department A described their manager with comments such as:

“She sincerely cares about us.”

“A very good listener; that’s how I would describe her.”

“A good cheerleader, realistic but upbeat.”

“When she comes into the room, the energy level goes way up.”

Employees in Department B, when describing their leader, said things like.

“It seems that she thinks our work is never quite good enough.”

“I may not see her for days, but if I do make an error, I hear back immediately.”

“She may want the team to succeed but she will see negatives in everything.

“She has high turnover.  No one wants to work with her.”

Joyce Heatherly in her book, BALCONY PEOPLE, explained the differences between these two leaders.

Balcony leaders (Department A) are encouraging, helpful, considerate and joyful.  They seek ways to grow and develop staff members and ensure their successes.  They are diligent, compassionate and quick to forgive.  Balcony leaders strive to develop staff members to be the best they can be.

By contract basement leaders (Department B) are very critical and hold grudges.  They have long memories and put their individual desires above all others.  Basement leaders belittle, discourage and take energy out of the team members.

 

Focus on Improving; Not Becoming Perfect


“Many of your staff members describe you as a perfectionist,” I reported to a manager.

“I know,” he said.  “I want one hundred percent of our customers to give us an “outstanding” rating.  I want every project delivered on time.  I want no errors.  And I want one hundred percent attendance.”

“You will never get all of those things.”

“I know.  My team does a good job but I want them to be the best.  I think by asking for perfection, I actually get more.  They know I do not tolerate mistakes or violations.”

Members of the team responded with comments like, “No matter what we do, you can never please him.”  “Why should we work through lunch and stay late?  He’ll find something wrong anyway.”  “Even when we do a good job, he always points to things we could have done better.”

Perfection is a fairy tale.  A fact check showed that performance metrics had not improved in two years under this “perfectionist” manager.  Morale was quite low and a couple of good-producing younger employees had left the company.

Employees are more engaged and more productive when leaders focus on getting better—not perfect—just improve over the last period.

Should I Stay or Should I Go?


According to the Labor Turnover Survey, about 3.5 million employees quit their jobs every month.  The average tenure for employees in their workplace is less than five years—longer for older employees, shorter for millennials.

Most job offers look pretty good from a distance but not all turn out to be so.  Still, few employees treat a job change like major surgery.  As one said, “If it doesn’t work out, I’ll just look for another.”

I think the analysis of whether to go or stay boils down to two basic issues—the work itself and the boss.

Concerning the work:  Do you like what you are doing?  Does your job allow for personal growth?  Do you value the mission of your company?

Concerning your boss:  Does your manager respect and appreciate you?  Is your manager interested in your development?  Do your opinions count?

If the answers to these questions are compelling “yes’s,” I suggest that you lean heavily toward staying in your current situation.  Still, I understand moving for opportunity.  Although I’ve chosen to remain with my current organization for more than forty years, I did change jobs seven times in the first eight years of my career.

 

 

Do Your Employees Know Exactly What You Think of Their Work?


Janice’s manager said to her, “You seem frustrated.  Are you OK?”

“I’m not always sure where I stand,” Janice responded.

“How so?”

“I turn in my work and I get another assignment.  If something is unacceptable, I get it back; but I don’t know if accepted work barely made the cutoff or set a new standard.”

“Janice, your work consistently meets and even exceeds my expectations.  I guess I assumed that you knew how much we value your contributions.”

I ask workshop participants, “How did management evaluate your work product last week?’’    Most have a general idea such as “OK, I guess,” or “not a good week.”  But few can respond with precise confidence.

I think most managers can increase employee engagement by giving frequent and precise feedback.  Look for opportunities daily or weekly to report to employees exactly what you think about their work.  Offer more than a simple “thank you.”  And avoid willy-nilly phrases like “good work,” or “not quite what I expected.”

Try cutting the deck a little deeper with more precision language such as, “top ten percent,” “that’s about a six,” “bottom half,” and the like.  All employees should know at all times how their work product is valued.