Top Three Ways to Alienate Your “Younger” Workers

I am writing this as a young Gen Xer so this guide really focuses on young GenXers and Millennials, but frankly, is not defined solely by age. (what is ever defined solely by age?) This list is based on my own unscientific observations, things I have read, things I have been pondering since getting pregnant, and lately considering how to juggle my work and growing family.

1. Micromanage them.
No one likes to be micromanaged but a generation that grew up being force fed group activities and independence has come to expect both. Newsflash: It is not a “group activity” if you are domineering the group.

Team members want to be trusted to get their work done. If you are really that worried about output, ask your team member or employee what they need to get their work done and then listen to the answer. Do they like timelines or deadlines? Set the dates needed and then leave them alone. If they fail to meet deadlines, then consider a harsher route, but trust first.

Libraries are especially notorious for needing quantitative output. Please realize that not all work has a product, especially in academia. We are getting paid to think about stuff for part of the day. There is no way to log that time. Technology also requires some experimenting and play time. This also has no real output, but it does result in a wider knowledgebase and well rounded employees. Nothing will stop a productive, happier employee faster than being micromanaged. Well, maybe #2.

2. Create a rigid schedule with no flex time or alternative work hours.
There have been numerous stories about the new generation of workers that *gasp* value family over work to the point that we are willing to make huge work sacrifices for our families. No job and no pay is worth missing out on the time I get on the couch with Mr. Rochester and Pullo at my feet. No job.

That means we want flexible work hours and some understanding when we ask for telecommuting opportunities. The only thing that says you do not trust your employee more than micromanaging them is telling them they have to be physically at their desk 8 hours a day. Studies have shown that no one works 8 hours a day straight. We need flexibility when we ask for it and we need to be trusted to get our work done. Rigidity says “I do not trust you and therefore must treat you like a child, not a colleague.”

Workers that know they are not trusted are not going to trust you nor are they going to want to perform at their best. Why would they? That is not the message you want to send. Some of us actually get more work done at home than we do at our desks. Before you say no, consider saying yes instead and the benefits that would come with a different answer.

3. Lock down technology.

This one should speak for itself. Many employees, especially younger workers, expect a certain amount of connectivity to get their work done. Not to mess around, but to be productive. I need music, for example, to be productive and I am not bringing my entire CD library to work with me. Do you let your team members have iTunes, use Pandora, or LastFM (provided your org has the bandwidth to support the latter two)? Before someone tells me I should just buy an MP3 player, let me respond: Why can’t I use the free tools available to me instead if me spending my money to be productive at work?

Technology saavy people also tend to like to experiment. How much leeway are you giving workers? Locking down technology says, “I do not trust you to behave yourself, though you have done nothing wrong yet.” Make some policies with consequences if rules are broken. Do not punish people when no crime has been committed.

Do you have more to add? Please share with the group.

–Jane, likes to be trusted to get her job done

5 thoughts on “Top Three Ways to Alienate Your “Younger” Workers

  • November 21, 2007 at 7:17 pm

    I’m also an academic librarian in your state, but a bit older than you (mid baby-boomer). In general, I agree with you, especially on #1.

    I’m glad to have bosses who are not clock-watchers and somewhat flexible about schedules. However, I think there are some fairness issues in telecommuting. For example, I’m part of the public services staff, and have far more reference desk hours than the technical services staff. In addition, I’m a department head with staff to supervise. I’d love to telecommute (I could do all my collection development from home!), but I tend to multitask and get it done that way. I’d be a little miffed if the tech services staff could do a lot of telecommuting while the nature of my job doesn’t allow it.

    As for music on the job, I love to listen to my music too, but I only do it in my office, and I’m only in my office for lengthy periods of time during interims. I think it’s rude to be listening to music out on the service desk, and I won’t allow my student workers to do it there (or while shelving or shelf-reading either). I want them to HEAR the patron asking them for help! If they are working during an interim, though, that’s a different story, but they have to use their own MP3 players and not download stuff to the machines.

  • November 24, 2007 at 12:32 am

    they don’t do much for some of us “dinosaurs” either…especally the last one!

  • November 24, 2007 at 5:29 pm

    I’m definitely an older gen exer, but what finally drove me away was lip service paid to real service–things that actually help patrons–if it didn’t fit with the thoughts of those on high.

  • November 25, 2007 at 7:08 pm

    We never listen to music at our service desks. I was talking about creating a work environment in your own office space.

    I think, once you are management, it is much harder to telecommute because most managers need to have some kind of face time with their employees.

  • November 29, 2007 at 2:26 pm

    A couple of points re distance work. The first is that if it’s an agreed-on day every week, then managers do definitely have face-time with people. So if it were the custom that Friday was “distance day,” there’s no reason that should affect “management.” (I managed a virtual library for five years, and would have liked ONE day a week when we were together–but no more than that.)

    Also, many jobs do have components that lend themselves to distance work, such as collection work, reports, etc. But Amanda, you know what? I don’t think it’s right to say NO ONE can telecommute unless EVERYONE can telecommute. That feels sort of babyish. I’ve been in jobs that didn’t lend themselves to distance work and that’s just how it was.

    In my first post-MLS library job I was once working in a cube and told to take off a walkman. That’s what “Jane” is talking about. Dumb stuff.

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