Effectively Managing The Praised Generation

There is a generation out in the workforce today who do not regard, accept or handle feedback or criticism. Often when some of these young professionals run into opposition or frustration at work, they don’t always handle it well. If they don’t get along with a boss, many quit within weeks of being hired. They stay in a job less than two years compared to the average worker who stays in their job about 4.4 years (Bureau of Labor and Statistics). These employees belong to what is called the “praised generation.” Effectively managing the praised generation is a business necessity.

One problem with this generation is they have been overly praised by well-meaning parents. These parents have boosted self-esteem by telling their children how amazing, smart and talented they are. This form of praise, according to psychologist Carol Dweck, can create a fixed mindset that does not respond well to setbacks or opposition. These children are entering the workforce and according to Ms. Dweck, “…many can’t function without getting a sticker for their every move. Companies are reinforcing this behavior by shifting annual bonuses to quarterly or even monthly. Instead of employee of the month, it is employee of the day. Companies are hiring consultants to help them recruit, reward and retain this population.” I just attended an event where one of these consultants was giving my CEO peer group advice to better manage this generation. We have a workforce with too many that require constant positive feedback and can’t handle feedback for improvement.

Two things need to happen for this to change: 1. Managers must to own their behaviors and learn to be better bosses and learn to encourage better behaviors in their employees. 2. Younger employees must learn some resilience and learn how to deal with conflict and disappointment when things don’t go their way like they may be used to. It is important that we figure this out, because like it or not, Millenials (praised generation) are currently the largest generation in the workforce and will make up 49% of the workforce by 2020. They also have many tremendous talents and qualities that will benefit in our businesses.

So what do we do? Long-term: Parents must be willing to allow their children to fail. Help them feel the consequences of loosing a game occasionally, instead of a trophy just for showing up. They need to know when they do a great job and when they can do better. My wife and I have five children. Some of our children are grown and are doing well; they hard working productive members of society. They (mostly) took correction well and learned from mistakes. Some are still growing and learning. Our parenting is sometimes viewed as unreasonable and punishments are sometimes considered ‘mean’ and/or ‘crazy’. Our behavior is viewed as the problem rather than their actions being the issue. We, as parents, have had to be consistent and fair in order to develop responsible, productive adults.

My wife and I get feedback from other parents who say our children are well adjusted. It leads me to believe that many are not ‘leaning’ into the discomfort of teaching children discipline. It is not about being friends. It is about being loving parents. Part of my evidence about these parents comes from managers who are asking for my help with these praised children who work for them. More disturbing evidence of failed parenting comes from a conversation I had recently with a district judge in Las Vegas, where I live. He tells me that convicted felon’s always ask for mercy and don’t feel they deserve punishment for their crimes. He said when he gives the sentence, he is called ‘crazy’, ‘mean’, and worse things including threats. This judge knows the only way we learn is if we experience the consequences of our choices. Society it seems, must bear some of the burden of parenting deficiencies.

My question for you as a leader is-how well do you handle adversity? How good are you at taking responsibility for your actions and your failures? We live in a society where so many look to blame others for their failings. It seems most would do anything they can to avoid consequences. People with this mindset fail to learn and grow because they perceive consequences as negative. Many have the attitude that laws apply to everyone else and breaking the law is okay as long as you don’t get caught. Then if you do, it is because you are being treated unfairly.

So what can you do be more effective as a manager of this praised generation?

  1. Adjust your expectations:
    Realize that developing this praised generation into productive contributors in your business takes commitment and consistency. You cannot simply hope the problem will solve itself. Make employee development an integral part of your business strategy.
  2. Learn how to praise: 
    Ms. Dweck gives some great advice that I support which you can immediately implement. Change what you praise your kids and employees for. When they do something hard, praise them for that. When they stick with a project regardless of the outcome, praise them for their commitment. Praise them for the effort not the outcome. Instead of praising for a job well done or a brilliant performance or a great idea, praise them for taking initiative. Ms Dweck even says, tongue in cheek, “praise them for not needing constant praise.”
  3. Coach & Mentor: 
    Develop coaching and mentoring programs that focus on soft as well and hard skills. Have a deliberate leadership development program that identifies and advances high potential employees.
  4. Fail forward: 
    Create an environment where people have enough freedom to learn by trial and error. Encourage employees to take initiative and take risks within reasonable limits. Mistakes can accelerate learning.
  5. Increase conflict: 
    Learning how to normalize conflict and disagreement. With the proper training, managers can learn how to turn conflict into a positive tool for the organization. It will help employees learn to constructively give feedback and benefit from disagreement. Building these conflict muscles will help develop this praised generation and consequently, help older generations make better decisions and be more engaged and productive.

The solution takes persistence and commitment. Your efforts can yield great benefits. Despite some of the negative press the “praised generation” gets, they have a great deal to offer and they are the future of your business.

The author Spencer Horn is the President of Spencer Horn Solutions, LLC.

Other topics that may interest you: Magnify Your Reputation; How To Make Yourself Instantly More Valuable;  Leadership Is About Impact Not IntentionWhat Is Innattentional Blindness Costing You?Is The Fundamental Attribution Error Destroying Your Team?Cure For The CEO DiseaseWhen Being Too Smart Hurts You

Disengagement And The “Love What You Do” Myth

5 Dynamics of Increased Engagement

Diseangaged Employees

I am not sure how many times I have heard the saying, “If you do what you love, you’ll never work a day in your life.” (Marc Anthony) If you are like me, you have heard this or something like it a bunch. When I heard this, I felt inspired to search for what I love, because after all, I don’t like to work! My life experience, and the experience of some very successful people I know, has taught me this philosophy is costing business, relationships and families dearly.

Have you ever had an employee that you were so excited to hire and it didn’t turn out well? Have you been the employee and starting a job with so much hope and enthusiasm only to find out it was not what you thought or expected? Have you experienced team members who became disengaged, frustrated, or angry and left?

Have you ever been in a relationship that started of with great promise? You found your soul mate, only to realize that initial feeling was not sustainable? When this happens, many leave their current partner and go off in search of the ideal they thought they found the last time. This cycle can be repeated again and again searching for the perfect ideal.

What is going on here? According to Gallup, 70% of employees are disengaged. Disengagement caused by unrealized expectations is the problem. Well-meaning parents and other mentors in our life want to inspire and encourage us. They tell us how great we are. They tell us we deserve the best things and the best people in our life. They tell us to follow our passion. They tell us we will be most successful when follow our passion. You want to believe this. I want to believe this! Who wouldn’t want to believe this?!

It is important to follow our passions and interests. It certainly makes life better. However, take caution about “never working a day in your life.” A quote by the singer Toni Braxton adds balance to the Marc Anthony quote: “To do what you love can sometimes be stressful.” We need to be prepared to handle the adversity and challenges of life that will surely come. What happens when things don’t work out like you planned? How do you react when things don’t go your way? I know that this has happened in my life and in the lives of almost everyone I know. We have had jobs and careers were we were following our passion and doing what we loved. However, even in these circumstances, we all had to do things we were not excited about, that felt like work.

Many of the youth today and our current workforce are not equipped to handle the challenging environments of business. They have not learned how to work. They are not prepared to handle the disappointments of relationships. Many give up when things don’t go the way they had expected. They may quit a job or relationship. Or worse, they stay and are miserable. It is how we behave in these challenging times which defines individuals as leaders, and as dedicated spouses and significant others. Many who are not equipped to handle disappointment show up in a way that is detrimental to the business or to the relationship.

The point here is not that we can’t pursue our ideal and passions; it is that we learn how to manage our disappointments, challenges and setbacks. There are definitely valid reasons to leave personal or work relationships. There are also many relationships that can be saved, improved, and become deeply fulfilling when we fight through the storms.

Five dynamics of increased engagement.

  1. Create a great culture:

    When ranking job satisfaction., 72% of respondents indicated that respectful treatment of employees at all levels was “very important”. This was the top contributor to overall employee satisfaction. This ranked higher than pay and benefits. Hiring and HR professionals must ensure their workplace culture and employee engagement strategies are of equal importance to compensation, benefits and other responsibilities. Here is an additional reason to develop a great culture!

  2. Be honest: 

    64% of employees rated trusting their senior management as the second most important contributor to job satisfaction. (SHRM, Employee Job Satisfaction and Engagement Study, 2015) Be open about the way it really is at your company. Don’t paint the picture that everything is perfect. Let candidates know there are challenges. The pay received is based on work, which requires effort. Being honest will help develop trust with leadership and narrow the gap between expectation and reality, which are necessary ingredients of employee engagement.

  3. Hire for behavior, train for skill:

    Find the people who are willing to be flexible and fight through adversity. Use effective tools, these will help remove the frustration of hiring by helping you, better match people to jobs. There are effective tools to create accurate job models based on your best performers and input from management. With the correct application of these tools, you will more effectively attract the best candidates. These tools will also help hiring managers ask the right questions to find the best possible person for the job. When you effectively match people to positions, you will strengthen the culture, increase employee engagement, increase productivity and reduce turnover and waste.

  4. Provide the right praise:  

    Many of the younger generation, coming in to the work place, do not know how to respond well to adversity and criticism. Many are part of a generation, which have been praised by well-meaning parents who told them how smart and talented they are. Sporting programs meaning to boost self-esteem may also be contributing to the problem by providing awards for kids who just show up. The result is well stated by the psychologist, Carol Dweck, “many can’t function without getting a sticker for their every move.” (Mindset, Carol Dweck, 2006) Employers are perpetuating the problem through recognition programs to support these employees who need constant reassurance and can’t take criticism. The alternative is to praise for taking initiative, for commitment, for overcoming a setback, for learning something new.

  5. Develop your people:

    Organizations that dedicate a portion of their budget to professional development send a message that they invest in their employees. Additional benefits of professional development include personal development and greater opportunities for career advancement. Although employees continue to place value on professional development opportunities, fewer organizations are investing in these types of benefits. (Society for Human Resource Management, 2014. Workplace Visions: Trends in Workplace Professional Development. Issue 3)
 As more and more of the experienced workforce retire, developing employees becomes more necessary. Employees are more likely to be engaged when they feel their employers are invested in helping them develop their careers.

Implementing these suggestions takes commitment. The payoff will be worth the investment!