Text posted Thursday, July 5, 2012
In many organizations, Gen Yers answer to more than one boss. That means they have to balance competing demands for their time and energy. When you give a Gen Yer an assignment, it may not always be clear how many other assignments he is juggling at that point. Are you interfering with assignments from other bosses? Will another assignment come up from another boss and interfere with your assignment? The problem is that Gen Yers feel as if they are stuck in the middle. Sometimes they try to please everybody and end up pleasing nobody. Other times they try to choose for themselves which assignment is a priority. Maybe they choose the assignment from the boss who seems most important to them. Or maybe they choose the assignment from the boss they like the best. Or maybe they try to make a business judgment about which assignment should take precedence. But this complicated situation often gets them into trouble with one or more of their bosses.
How can you help them avoid this problem?
Step one: When you give Gen Yers assignments, always ask for an inventory of all their other assignments at that moment. That way, if you or another manager becomes aware of a potential conflict, you can help the Gen Yer resolve it there and then.
Step two: Explain the problem to Gen Yers in advance, and give them standard operating procedures for dealing with it. When they receive assignments, teach them to first give the assigning manager an inventory of all their other assignments so that potential conflicts can be resolved in advance. When potential conflicts do arise, teach them not to try to resolve the conflicts. Rather, they should immediately contact each competing boss and ask for help resolving the conflicts on their own.