Text posted Thursday, July 19, 2012
Here’s a story a manager in a large research company told me: ”The first time I interviewed this one employee, she told me, ’I think you are going to be really impressed.’ Then when I hired her, she told me the same thing. The third time she repeated, ’I think you are going to be really impressed,’ was on her first day of work. Well I was, and I wasn’t. She was very smart and she did high-quality work, in a whole other league than people with much more experience. But her work habits were horrendous. Where do I begin? She came in late, left early, took long breaks, and missed days of work. She lied about it too, always making excuses. She dressed inappropriately. She cursed a blue streak. She did great work, but very little of it. So I was impressed, and then again I wasn’t. In some ways, she was superb. But she was just lacking in the basics.”
Gen Yers are often amazingly advanced in their knowledge and skills at a very young age, yet they often lack maturity when it comes to the old-fashioned basics of productivity, quality, and behavior. What’s worse, managers often report that Gen Yers tend to be unaware of gaps in these basic skills and are completely unconcerned about it. In response to this gap in skills, some managers just get frustrated. After all, when Gen Yers come to the workplace, shouldn’t they already be mature enough to arrive on time, dress appropriately, practice good manners, stay focused on their key tasks, and do lots of work very well at a good, steady pace? Should managers be expected to teach them these sorts of things? As a restaurant manager put it, ”Nobody taught me how to wipe my nose in my jobs. I had to learn how to manage myself.”
That may be. But if you are the boss, then this gap in skills is your problem. If you manage Gen Yers who lack some of the basics of self-management, I’m sure you are frustrated too. Here’s what you need to do: Help them. Lift them up. Make them better. Teach them to care about the basics. Teach them to be more aware of those gaps in their repertoires. Teach them to fill those gaps, one at a time. Teach them how to manage themselves.