In the hushed corners of the office cubicles, we can hear the whispers of our co-workers talk about a that certain group. Those people.
Here is some information you might not know: They are our kids. WE raised them. They didn’t hatch or arrive on earth at age 21. Whatever failings, perceived deficiencies and actual differences they have are on us! We wanted to give them everything; to make up for we did not have in our own childhoods. While growing up, we provided for them so well that they did not need to get a high school job. We protected them from the childhood hurts and disappointments like not being a good enough athlete to make the team. Everyone got a trophy.
We succeeded. We focused on protection and self-esteem. Now we work with these team members whom as parents, we failed to prepare for the “real world” as we knew it.
To be sure, no one reading this is that parent. It was everyone else!
Guess what? The “real world” as we knew it, changed.
We told them to go to college and now they are saddled with student loans that rival a mortgage. A significant percentage of them didn’t get their first job until age 20! They are marrying later in life than we did. Moving out on their own and starting families later than us, too. They are not buying homes at the age or rate we did. This generation is the first whose life expectancy will be shorter than their parents’. They have fewer social interactions. Social interaction is important factor to a long healthy life!
We can no longer compare their goals and benchmarks against our life achievement timelines. “When I was your age,” is not fair and is like comparing Pong to an online multiplayer game like World of Warcraft. (Google it.)
They may not be loyal to an employer. Why would they? The days of graduating high school and getting the job at the local plant, mine or mill and working until retirement with a pension are all but gone. The plant, mine or mill is likely gone too. During the economic collapse, they observed us lose our jobs when our employers had to downsize or close. They had to move, change schools when we lost our homes. They heard us when we asked ourselves, “What do we do now?” when our safety nets, the value of our retirement accounts and homes’ equity plummeted to next to nothing. They learned from what happened to us. The message was clear: Loyalty to an employer guarantees nothing.
Plus, now to make up for what we lost in the previous decade, we are remaining in the workforce longer. They do not have the career growth opportunities because we are still occupying the window offices. Why would they not seek another job that may offer fulfillment since they neither trust nor see growth opportunity in their current workplace?
We cannot change the past. They are here with us in the workforce. The company needs good people and we raised good people. As leaders and employers, we need them! Moving forward is the expectation and responsibility the organization has entrusted to us.
So, let us move forward. In order to do that, we must utilize our best leadership skills. We need to modify some of our expectations of them. They want a job that is fulfilling and offers opportunity. It is critical that we create a satisfying and social working environment. They need us to inspire and engage them. They crave positive feedback from us. We can continue and increase the amount we provide of it. When we leave, they have to be prepared to move into our offices. We are the ones to prepare them. This is natural for us because all we have ever wanted is for our kids to succeed!