You’re doing it wrong.
I hear you complaining about me and all of the other young professionals in our organization (as if we can’t hear you). We hear you, and although you may not realize it, we have plenty of thoughts in return.
Consider this a chance for us to start collaborating to help us get where we want to go by helping you get where you want to go.
Here are ten complaints (in italics) we hear from you and the responses that run through our heads, but we refrain from sharing out loud.
Complaint #1: Colleges are not training for the skills that I need. Everyone we hire comes out of college completely lacking the skills we need to be successful. Colleges are failing at their jobs.
Do you expect us to go out to our local skills garden and pick the skills off the skills tree to fill in the gaps missed during college? Unfortunately, we didn’t get to design the curricula we experienced in college and we can’t control the fact that colleges are two decades behind the real world in what they’re teaching.
When you scoff every time we ask a “stupid question,” it turns us off and we stop making ourselves vulnerable in the name of getting better. It would help if you could have a tiny bit of patience as we get up to speed on all of the things you were learning while we were in our cradle.
PS: How long did it take you to know what was going on once you entered the workplace? I would bet you didn’t learn all of the skills needed during your college years either. It’s easy to call someone else out, but the reality is that we’ve probably had very similar experiences.
Complaint #2: Career centers and job boards are not helping me find the talent I need. I get hundreds of applications and hardly any of them are from qualified candidates.
You know why you’re disappointed? Because the methods you’re using attract the kind of applicant who sits in their messy apartment and flings resumes across the internet. This is a classic case of what you put in to something being what you get out…
If you were open to it, I could probably tell you ten student groups or professional organizations that would be great places to find great places. But to do that you need to stop using inefficient job boards and do some actual work to find the kind of people you imagine working for you.
You know why most basketball teams don’t use the full court press? Because it’s hard. (Hat tip to that Malcolm Gladwell book I just read for that one – have you read it?)
You know why you have to sift through hundreds of terrible resumes? Because proactively seeking out talent is hard. But I can help.
Complaint #3: If I do find what seems like a pool of talented people for an open position, they lie about what they can do. I have no idea why every time I hire somebody, they show up and they’re not any good. What did I do to deserve this?
What questions did you ask during the interviews? In my interview you talked about college football for half an hour before you ever asked a question. Then you proceeded to look at my resume and cover letter for the first time in your life before asking simple questions about my GPA and course work.
What courses did YOU take in college and how often have you actually used them in your job? I’m sure it’s tough to be good at hiring AND at your core job duties, but maybe you could give some thought to what you’re looking for in young creative talent to begin with. You completely missed the three organizations I led in college, the business I started, and the business executives I have as mentors.
On my end of things, you were so caught up in filling the role that you didn’t even accurately describe what it entails. You painted this rosy picture of how awesome your workplace is and how great the job would be and then I showed up and this is a rough place to work. It goes both ways.
Complaint #4: Millennials do as little as possible to get by based on whatever I’ve told them their job is. None of them look for new problems to solve, and when they do look for new problems to solve, they come up with crazy, hair-brained ideas. What am I supposed to do when they come to me with crazy ideas that are way too risky?
Remember that time I shared the idea about how to fix a problem you were having and you told me to mind my own business and get back to my cube? How about that time I found the conference where 10 of our clients were attending and I could have learned about all of the innovative new ideas in our clients’ industry… and you told me that young professionals don’t go to conferences, because, well, what would you tell my older colleagues?
Do you realize how disheartening that is? Here I am looking for opportunities to contribute in a meaningful way and working up the courage to propose something unconventional, and your reaction is to completely shut me down. I don’t care if you’re a Millennial or a member of the Silent generation… that’s no fun.
Then there was the time you asked for feedback and I gave you my honest (valuable) opinion and you blew up in my face.
Basically, you really encourage an environment where I want to offer my best ideas. And to make it even better, you really take action on my ideas when I’m having a good day and decide it’s time to try again… Those were both sarcastic statements, just to be clear.
If I cared less about making my life and work matter, I would stick to doing enough to get by but not get noticed. I would prefer to pretend you love innovative new ideas rather than face the reality, but I care too much. I’ll be back for more after I lick my wounds.
Complaint #5: Gen Y. They’re all entitled, they want raises and promotions and nonstop feedback. Ha! They make demands of me and they don’t do anything to add value in return.
You might not have noticed, but at the end of last quarter, I worked 100 hour weeks for four weeks straight to get you to your number. I believe you said your bonus on that was an extra $10,000. Wow. What a pay day.
What did you do with that? I’m not sure, but spreading some of that around to the people who actually made it happen either wasn’t an option or I didn’t get in on it.
Did I mention that last year I handled every key client relationship for you? How about the three client saves? Oh, and that time I convinced your best employee not to quit after you completely ignored a request they made? Did you know I learned how to craft a proposal and became an expert in creating engaging powerpoint presentations last year as well?
Oh right, but when we lost a couple of those proposals I asked you what to do better next time. I also pushed you to stop using boring bullet points on your slides, which was a huge hit at that one presentation. That seems like a fair trade to me.
So, why would I want a raise or promotion? Because I’ve done more work than you give me credit for. I’ve busted my tail to help you reach your goals, and I’ve proactively sought out new opportunities to get better at what I do. Maybe, just maybe, I do deserve a raise, bonus, or promotion. Even better, let’s talk about some incentives that could motivate me even more (it’s not all about money with me).
I hope that as you enjoy your extra week of vacation this year, you at least consider all of the people who have worked hard to help you make that happen. Me included.
Complaint #6: They ask for feedback, but what they really want is praise. All they want is praise.
Yes, when I do a hell of a good job, I want you to tell me that. If you’re not going to give me a raise, at least take two minutes and shoot me an email or drop by my cube to show some appreciation.
I know it’s expected that I do my job, and I’m note complaining about that. But here’s a little secret for you: just because I’m the only one that says I want praise, it doesn’t mean I’m the only one thinking it.
You should hear the water cooler conversations about how you’re never satisfied and never show appreciation. We make you look good and you take all of the credit with anyone who asks how you do what you do.
Do you have any idea how disheartening it is to do a bang up job on an assignment and then have you tell us everything we do wrong throughout the entire staff meeting every week? A little bit of praise and recognition goes a long way towards making us want to get better at what we do.
Complaint #7: They skip around from job to job, they’re never satisfied, they don’t look for great opportunities within our organization, and they’re not loyal. They’re not willing to put in the grind and the hustle and the hard work up front to get where they want to go. They don’t want to pay their dues.
You know how sometimes when you’re young and you’re in a relationship you know it won’t last? All of the advice I ever received about that kind of situation was very similar: “As soon as you know that the relationship won’t last, break it off. It’s only gets harder with time.” Parents, mentors, friends – they all tell me the same thing.
Well, that’s how I look at my work as well. The second you show us that you don’t value my work and that I can’t achieve the vision I have for my life by working for you… When you ignore my desire to learn and grow… When you completely ignore the feedback and ideas I give you… When you prevent me from building my personal network, attending conferences, and growing my career capital… When you show that you’re only worried about yourself by withholding bonuses, raises, promotions, and creative incentives…
Well, why WOULD I want to stay? What are you doing to inspire me to do great work? I know I have a ton of potential and I want to use it to do work that matters. Nothing about the way that you lead and manage makes me feel valued or as if I am fulfilling my potential. So, yes, I’m headed out the door.
It’s not about being scared of hard work. It’s about being in an environment where I’m given responsibility, a chance to learn and grow, and a sense of purpose for why I show up everyday. I’ll work hard in that kind of environment, and you simply don’t provide it. Sorry to burst your bubble.
Complaint #8: On top of everything else, they want good pay. When I started out working, I made $18,000 a year, and now these kids want $40,000 or more. What’s the deal?
Here’s something I did learn in college: it’s called inflation. Your $18,000 stretched a lot further back when you entered the work force, and there are a ton of circumstances you don’t take into account when you think about how much of my salary I actually take home.
Here’s a news flash: I live with three roommates in a tiny apartment in a neighborhood that makes me a bit nervous at night. I choose between going out on Friday and Saturday night because I can’t afford to do something on both. I still use my student ID to get into football games at my alma mater because I can’t afford alumni tickets. My student loan payments eat up a big chunk of that measly paycheck.
I could go on, but I’m not much for whining about it. I get it, I’m just starting out and I need to learn how to budget, etc etc. How many of those struggles do you have? If you’re paycheck to paycheck I bet it’s because you made poor choices at some point, not because your employer won’t invest in compensating their talented employees.
There are a million ways I could help you come up with to pay me (and the other talented people who deserve it) an amount of money that helps us to live comfortably in exchange for the great work we do for you.
Oh, by the way, I read an article the other day that told me that my best chance for a large increase in salary is to change jobs. In fact, people who change jobs end up earning more over their careers thanks to the salary bump.
But hey, you keep paying me what you want. Just don’t expect me to feel bad when I find a more interesting job with better pay, better culture, and a better boss. If you want me to stay loyal, engaged, and valuable to you, help me help you. Please.
Complaint #9: Their interpersonal and communication skills are abysmal. Their emails look like short-hand text messages, they don’t have any executive presence, they have no business acumen, and they can’t pitch anything. But why would I ever invest dollars in training? I’m tired of getting screwed over and people stealing the talent I train and invest in. They have no loyalty and my competitors are jerks.
This is a classic chicken and egg question. You don’t want to do what’s necessary to create an environment conducive to me growing. You don’t want to pay me enough to invest in my own training… And then you whine about training your employees? Give me a break.
Here’s the reality: colleges aren’t prepping us with the skills it actually takes to be successful. We agreed on that earlier. You also aren’t paying me enough to use my vacation days to go to training programs on my own, which I’ve already established. And we both know MBAs are essentially useless at this point unless I want to be an investment banker, consultant, or supply chain manager.
If you want me to become an all-star then help me help you by opening up some training opportunities.
I’ll bust it for you if you start acting like it’s worth it. Here are a few skills I’d love to become a pro at: creating a professional development plan; structured communication; delivering powerful presentations; selling a product, service, or idea; design thinking for business people; and building professional relationships.
I can think of 1,000 ways I could apply those skills at work and they’re the exact things you complain about me not knowing how to do well. So, we can wait here in a stalemate for five years while I happen across opportunities to learn, or we can both agree that’s it worth your dollars to train us to be top performers… It seems like a pretty cut and dry decision, but I could be wrong.
Complaint #10: I should just fire half of these kids that work for me. They’re impossible to make happy, they want too much from me, and they want to do things differently from all of my older workers.
In the words of Clint Eastwood (to put it in terms you’ll recognize): “Go ahead, make my day.”
Really though, I’m so tired of your empty threats. It’s exhausting. Plus, we’ve already been through this. It’s a shared problem that we’re going to have to tackle together.
Besides, if we’re both being honest, you wouldn’t know where to start if you fired us. Half your clients and customers would leave you, you wouldn’t know where to go to find more talent (we talked about this), and you’d end up in the same spot a year from now.
Let’s get real. We both have work we can do to create a better place to show up to work. Hopefully being honest will finally open up the opportunity to chat about the frustrations we both have.
Yeah, it feels good to get all of this off my chest. I might just be ready to share some of my brilliant ideas again. Let’s grab coffee tomorrow. What do you say?
Your Young Professionals
Does any part of this sound like your workplace? Send this to your CEO, boss, and/or colleagues. Use it as a way to spark conversation that went stale long ago. High performing organizations are great places to work and the road to great performance, culture, and communication all starts with open conversation.
If you fear you’ll be fired for sharing, feel free to find a way to get this article in the hands of your employer anonymously. Print it at home and leave it on the copier at work. Hang it up in the break room when no one is looking. Or, attach it to your letter of resignation when you finally can’t take it anymore.