Dark chocolate caramels are delicious confection satisfying youthful taste buds while fleur de sel sprinkles offer old salty dogs something to savor, a perfect candy to bridge the generations. This story may not be easy to digest but I’m sharing as preemptive strike against hoopla for Gen Z as we have suffered enough with Millennial myths.
Dear Senior Team Members and Industry Veterans:
Many moons ago during our freshman professional chapters, we were royal pains in the rear end but were delightfully unaware because ignorance is bliss. Without question, we vexed supervisors with no perception of how blindingly irritating our actions, the Millennial group in your organization comparably oblivious. In my experience, current rookies differ from earlier generations only by social media prowess, but Boomers are hijacking social channels with alarming proficiency, our youth have nothing to call their own. While the struggle to manage amateurs is real, our present novices are no more or less inept than previous generations furthermore it’s a waste of time to fuss over imaginary differences. The jig is up; Millennials are just like everyone else.
Striving freshmen want short cuts, but let’s remember our own impatience and impertinence. Seasoned folk take for granted common sense assembled over decades of experience, our days of mucking-through a faded memory, history redrafted into glossy fiction nothing close to the reality of how much cleaning up our managers did for us. Looking back, you may recollect bosses perpetually annoyed, never imagining their nihilism, fondness for cocktails and eye-twitch the side effects of schooling thankless beginners. On the whole, we weren’t trying to be exasperating; we were simply incompetent. Instead of treating beginners as alien species, let’s recall our own struggles, which should provoke empathy, no matter how ungrateful their behavior may seem.
Social media proclivities aside, newcomers demonstrate hopes and dreams similar to the rest of humanity including heavy-duty entitlement, nothing novel or mind-blowing. Further, while seniors enjoy grandiose illusions of magnificence, trainees are begrudged their delusion until paying their dues. Simple said, the root of our struggles, a dueling sense of entitlement.
I’m entitled not to deal with your sense of entitlement.
When your eye begins twitching in exasperation, consider the following.
Lessons from managing freshman:
• Humor comes in handy when facing are you kidding me? moments perceived as disrespect. Be warned, taking self too seriously ensures your last nerve will be repeatedly stomped on by newbie. Please don’t expect wet behind the ears recruits, learning technical skills and rules of engagement to arrive pre-programmed for polite reverence; trainee is too busy unraveling client relationships you spent years building to be concerned with your ego.
• Face your complacency. A phrase such as that’s the way it is should send off alarm bells when outdated protocol cannot be rationalized and you defend the system instead of facilitating change.
• It takes a village. Balance team with diverse talent pool of novice, intermediate and seniors demonstrating succession paths. Too many first-timers placed in roles requiring technical and emotional maturity spells drama. A peer network of proficient helpers makes everyone’s life easier.
• Explain how to get experience essential for advancement but avoid parenting or advising anyone how they should feel particularly as it relates to disappointment. It’s counterintuitive, but stepping back promotes learning. True ownership of tasks builds meaningful experience albeit accountability not always comfortable.
• Get to the bottom of the issue. Are you riled by the audacity of beginners questioning established protocol? Those having set aside revolutionary mind-sets for bonus checks and security must not begrudge freshman for challenging status quo not benefiting them directly.
Ultimately, everyone is entitled to her point of view so stay mindful when projecting how grateful someone should be based upon your values, focusing on productivity instead of judgment. For example, curb inclination to blurt out that your trainees should pay you for your pearls of wisdom, not the other way around.
The real question is how can we support our freshman so they move as quickly as possible to the next phase? Even the brightest go-getters need advice and encouragement.
Freshmen need guidance with:
• Coming to grips with their insignificance in the grand scheme of a business. Gently explain how your business works and which roles make strategy vs tactical decisions. Recall the sting of feeling slighted, which inevitably surfaces when nobody asks for the new guy’s opinion.
• Tasks completed with proficiency is not Nobel Peace Prize worthy, nor should effort be mistaken for results. Thick-skinned rhinoceros armor builds over time, which is not an endorsement for coddling beginners, rather an invitation to empathize with universal need for acknowledgment.
• What success looks like from a big-picture perspective. It will no doubt be daunting so don’t forget to celebrate effort along the way. Positive reinforcement requires significant attention for trainees with praising efforts morphing as freshman move into sophomore level skills.
In summary, the learning phase is difficult work, so please give newbies a break, but by all means do not coddle them. While freshman are not special in the sense, they are different breed of human, they are special people attempting to contribute and manifest their dreams. Finally, anyone attempting to convince you the latest generation is unique is probably trying to sell you something.
Recipe for Salted Chocolate Caramel
Disclaimer: The story and recipe above should not be considered advice as the readers and users of Chocolate Cake Mondays are not clients and therefore CCM is not liable for reader’s reliance on the information herein.