By Ryan Healy – As much as I enjoy the company of my supervisors and consider many of them my friends, we still work in a professional environment and they are a step above me on the food chain. So I watch what comes out of my mouth around higher level co-workers, but it’s just as important for them to watch what they say, too.
Here are five things you should never say or do around any young workers who you want to keep around:
“Put your iPod away.”
Want to see your young workers jet to a new company after a few months? Tell them they aren’t allowed to listen to their I-Pods in the office. I feel naked without mine. I work out with it, walk with it, attach it to my car stereo and listen to it when I’m working or writing. An old supervisor once told me to put away my I-Pod. I did. Until he left the room!
We all see the stories about small startups and Google’s working environments. These companies are the gold standard for twentysomethings. Employees wear jeans and T-shirts and work from rainbow colored bean bag chairs. If the office I’m at doesn’t even let me listen to an i-Pod, they are obviously behind the times. Who wants to work for a boring, outdated company?
“Pay your dues.”
I understand the logic behind this way of thinking. There’s certainly something to be said for putting in your time and learning the ropes before jumping into a management position, but watch your wording.
Ryan Geist once put it this way: “Don’t tell me to pay my dues. Tell me to sell myself.”
The point is, youngsters are not stupid. We know a few years of grunt work is to be expected, but we don’t like to think of it as “paying dues.” Young workers will respond better if you say something like, “develop your skill set” or “ build your brand.” These are two positive ways to imply the same message. “Paying your dues” is not entirely false, but its significance gets lost in translation. It screams negativity. .
“Don’t you wish we were on vacation all the time?”
No, actually I don’t wish I was on vacation all the time. I plan to accomplish many things in my short time on this planet. Getting a great tan on a life long vacation is right above swimming with sharks on my to-do list.
If a manager that I plan to replace one day said this to me, I would have more than a few second thoughts. Desiring to be on vacation all the time implies that you don’t like your job and you have little ambition. I don’t want to work for a company that doesn’t keep their employees happy, and I don’t want to work for a manager who has no aspirations.
“Before I was at the top of the food chain…”
This is my all time favorite. Please do not talk about your days as a low-level cog in the corporate machine. For one thing, those days are now my reality. It’s not necessary to remind me about the late nights and crummy hotels you were stuck in.
But also, I know you’re the boss. I do not need to be reminded. I have seen the corporate reporting structure, and unless you’re the CEO, you’re not at the top of the food chain. If a manager needs to talk about their status as “the boss,” this gives the impression that the company is apprehensive about status and titles. Young people really don’t care about titles. My goal is not the corner office and I’m not awestruck by a high profile executive. We’re all people.
“I wasted a huge part of my youth doing what you are doing.”
Yes, somebody actually said this to me.
Ryan Healy’s blog is Employee Evolution.