Thursday, February 12, 2009

I (We) Want It That Way

Yes...Backstreet Boys.  They speak the anthem of our generation.  Who knew employers could learn lessons managing Gen Y in a recession from 90's pop songs like I Want it That Way, Semi-Charmed Life, or Bye Bye Bye (hey, given the recession, it's appropriate)? 

Sadly, this post isn't about the Backstreet Boys OR 90's pop songs; however, there are real-life lessons about managing Gen Y during a downturn.  Just because jobs are hard to come by and we need to hit up Mom and Dad for rent doesn't mean we don't keep our ridiculously high standards for work-life balance, mentorship, or promotion-worthy year-end reviews. We may be stuck working for your organization and be unable to hop to the next company willing to buy us a company iPhone, but that doesn't mean we have to like it.  

Ultimately, we can make your life miserable...or absolutely awesome (our parents were practice; you're the real test and application of our skills).  Keeping us happy, especially as your lackeys and entry-level professionals, will make your lives easier by creating more positive employees who aren't just showing up to work every day and hating their jobs like some Office Space reality show.

Three key things will make or break your professional manager-managee relationship with Gen Y.  These things include:
  1.   Letting us have fun: We realize the top-shelf, open-bar, all-expenses paid trip to Vegas (or even downtown) are now gone.  However, that doesn't mean we don't want to and can't have fun.  Maybe it means organizing extracurricular trips downtown, happy hour on a weeknight, or having goofy office challenges.  Just because sales are down and the company may reduce headcount, that doesn't remove the desire for Gen Y to have fun in our jobs.
  2. Recognizing us for our work: Listen...we know we don't make six figures.  However, would it kill for a compliment every once in awhile?  Knowing someone's proud of you or appreciates what you do is one of the simplest and most meaningful things a manager can do.  Best of all; it's free.  However, how many managers really thank their people on a monthly, weekly, or daily basis for their efforts?  Recognizing us for our work is a free and great way to keep us enjoying our jobs because we know our pointless data entry brings you value and makes us look good.
  3. Interacting with us: No man is an island...unless his manager is never there.  Then things get awfully lonely.  As Gen Y, we're used to having attention, receiving constant feedback, and being told exactly how to succeed.  However, when sales go down the tubes and the economy is in a recession, we know you get busy.  However, we still would like to have you talk to us, buy us a cup of coffee, and tell us jokes.  
Ultimately, managing Gen Y in a downturn isn't overly complicated; however, it takes more time than some managers and organizations are willing to give.  However, the importance of this is obvious; if you ignore your entry-level knowledge professionals, eventually they'll burn out and become uninterested (and ineffective) in their positions.

Mama said knock you out.

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