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 Who wants to work for a boring, outdated company?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.

51 replies
  1. Tiffany
    Tiffany says:

    It’s sometimes really difficult for managers to walk the line between “buddy” and “boss” – and I think a lot of these comments illustrate one step too far on either side. Neither authoritarian nor lackadaisical is the best approach, especially when you’re managing Millennials.

  2. michael holley smith
    michael holley smith says:

    The reason old-timers and boomers tell you to put your devices away is that they don’t believe you can think about work and be entertained at the same time; nor do they believe being entertained at all times is good for personal growth. Like plugging into tv all the time, passive reacting is not active thinking. Young people need to learn to think and analysis, weigh issues and workplace matters, by talking and musing and sharing, not tuning out. You can tune out on your own dime, but expect “performance” to be rated in part by “focus.” Paying your dues in a matter of learning to appreciate your employer’s point of view and priorities, especially if you want to stand out and be in that 10% that enjoys the best rewards.



    You have a good point, being entertained or “multi-tasking,” all the time is probably not good for growth. But music is different. Music is background noise that can actually help you accomplish the task you are really concentrating on. Trying to watch TV and write is not a good idea because it requires you to pay attention to the television and the computer at the same time. I think managers look at it as “unprofessional,” because they don’t live their lives with headphones in, not because it causes inferior work. Check out the comment from “Fred in IT” on a Multi-tasking post from Employee Evolution. He explains some of the science behind this.


  3. Matt Bingham
    Matt Bingham says:

    I am on the fence about this particular post from Ryan. One side of me thinks that twenty something employees (I am one of them)need to be reassured all the time about the work they do; but the other part of me is all for a more positive work environment. There needs to be a middle ground where young employees and “older” managers meet. Some companies will be much better than others, but also take into account the “brand” you are making for yourself. If you are at an “older” company that is giving you a great deal of experience I wouldn’t trade that for my iPod any day. Give it couple years and use it as a stepping stone to move on. Experience is everything in my opinion. Don’t move jobs without weighing the balance of what the job is providing for you.


    Agreed, everyone is walking a thin line when chatting with work colleagues, not just the managers. There does need to be an established middle ground, but it’s all about your priorities. If a company’s only flaw is not allowing I-pods, then you should probably stay. Chances are, that philosophy probably stems from an outdated company culture.


  4. Mary
    Mary says:

    You are on target about how what managers say is a reflection of the over all workplace. If people were speaking to me in the manner you report, I’d run. (And I’m a boomer, loud ‘n’ proud.)

    I left the non-profit world in part because of the way people would speak about themselves and the workplace. The corporate world was always called “the real world”; corporate jobs were called “real jobs.” i.e. “If I had a real job.” I worked at five different non-profits (3 of them considered the top in their field in NYC), and the lack of self-esteem among management level workers was astounding.

  5. Jacqui
    Jacqui says:

    I think we’ve established through numerous posts that ideal working conditions for Millennials are far different than for other generations because of the technology we grew up with. When I’m writing a big article, especially one that I’m not all that excited about, blocking out the noise of cubicleland with my mp3 player is pretty much the only chance I have to get anything accomplished. Otherwise, the constant chaos outside my 3.5 walls makes every little distraction into a huge productivity barrier.

    It’s unfair to assume that listening to music makes workers less focused and less valuable. Go walk through a Google office and see how many of them are glued to their ipods. I don’t think anyone would dare argue that they’re running an unproductive operation.

    Different isn’t necessarily inferior.

  6. Tyson
    Tyson says:

    Sometimes listening to music is JUST entertainment. But in most cases, it’s something we do while we’re doing something else. And it usually makes that activity more productive and engaging. Working out, socializing at a party, shopping, etc.

    Why can’t this same concept be applied to work?

    I don’t know anyone who would pop in a pair of headphones at a staff meeting. But sometimes you’re supposed to tune everything else out to accomplish a personal task.

    Anyone who has a problem with the i-Pod thing is just grumpy and not looking at the bigger picture.

  7. Dave
    Dave says:

    Or, you could just get over it and do your job instead of worrying about all these perceived slights and injustices. Cut your managers some slack, man. But I get your point about presentation…the ideas might not be so bad, but managers (see movie Office Space) can REALLY botch things through poor delivery.

    There are situations where people shouldn’t be listening to ipods at work…it is very annoying to ask someone over a low cube wall a question and get no response so you have to throw something at them to get their attention. And keep in mind that not everyone works the same way; I can’t multitask like that; I would never be able to concentrate on what I am doing with music going at the same time. But I know that’s just me and if it works for other people, fine. Just give me a supply of soft things to throw. :) Again, good manager’s solution is working it out, not making generation-annoying proclaimations.



    Don’t worry I’m over it. Occasional poor communication would never drive me to quit. However, like you said, it’s all about presentation and managers need to know the best way to communicate with employees, just like employees need to know how to communicate with their managers.


  8. Ryan Geist
    Ryan Geist says:

    Ryan – Your diss on vacation is noble! If you find a way to sign over your days to me, let me know. I got nothing but love for my Hawaiian shirts, Margaritas and Jimmy Buffett.


    This is interesting, because I often talk about how my parents advise me based on what they BELIEVE is best for me. Often times, that is very different from what really is best for me. A lot of people, young and old, are able to concentrate much better on a task while listening to music. In fact, I’ve had a number of my Gen Y comrades approach me, frustrated that they couldn’t concentrate on their work because they weren’t allowed to listen to music while working. So again, for many people the ability to listen to music is directly correlated to their productivity, NOT entertainment value.

    I like that you focused on performance and results. I agree, performance should be rated and considered in these decisions. In many instances, “the iPod” only becomes an issue with Managers if someone’s performance is lagging. In this case, if the performance issues can clearly be tied to the iPod, then taking it away is the right choice. Otherwise, taking someone’s iPod away without clearly linking it to performance issues is simply punitive. And that won't go over well.

    Other managers perceive a social stigma associated with the inability to audibly communicate with someone listening to an iPod. I think a compromise is needed here. During times when teams are working closely together and there is a high degree of vocal communication, then it is completely acceptable to request that members of the team pocket their iPods. On the other hand, if someone has their head down and is focused on a task, it is ridiculous to ask them not to listen to their music. The only exception to this is if a client makes it perfectly clear that their culture does not accept this behavior. In that case, it becomes a business critical issue and the wants and desires of the "iPodders" must be suspended until the situation changes.

  9. Tiffany
    Tiffany says:

    I think too often, companies focus on things like iPod policies and they don’t realize that this can ruin employee engagement. As connected as workers are today, it pays to really hire and retain hard-working, responsible workers. And then trust them to do their jobs well.

    Here’s an interesting spin on the iPod thing from personal experience. We have a cubicle environment in our corporate offices, and our company culture is conservative (ultra-professional dress code and all). But my first year here was a good sales year, and as a suprise to everyone, guess what we all got for Christmas? Shiny new iPod nanos. And I haven’t stopped talking about it since! Tons of my friends have applied here. The little things like that help our company really recruit and retain some of the top professionals in our area. And know what else? Sales and productivity have only gone up since then.

  10. MS
    MS says:

    All of the iPod related restrictions I have ever heard had more to do with security issues (you’re essentially carrying around a really compact hard drive/flash drive). I don’t see it as being a particularly effective way to stop intellectual property theft, but it makes a better case than “you can’t do your best work while you’re listening to music..”

    That said, I think the damage to morale is worse than the potential security issue in cases where personal or top secret information is on the line.

  11. Daniel Sweet
    Daniel Sweet says:

    I just posted a way-too-long response at Ryan’s blog, but I wanted to echo the heart of it here:

    Yes, Bosses are stupid in the same percentage that Workers are stupid. Agreed.

    However, if you adopt their attitudes, you are no better than they. “Take off that stupid iPod” comes from the same place as, “You stupid old people just don’t get it, do you?”

    Change is taking / will take place. How you deal with it in the meantime will determine if you’ll be a better person when you’re a manager or if you’ll be the next generation of the same manager your boss is today.


  12. Rambler
    Rambler says:

    Hey I have a question, more like a dilemma, I have this problem of getting annoyed when my supervisor sends me a appreciation mail, somehow I feel its fake, and he is just being formal here, If he really feels like appreciating he can copy the whole team right, but all my friends feel its just my mindset which needs to change, what do you say, how should supervisors appreciate.


    If praise or appreciation sounds fake, it probably is. I hate hearing “good job today,” when I didn’t really do anything great. For appreciation to be legitimate, there must be a legitimate reason behind it, and the manager should articulate that to you.

  13. laurence haughton
    laurence haughton says:

    My son (a pre-med major) is being mentored by a surgeon this summer. He just spent two days watching her in the operating room. While her team performed there was non-business chit chat, music, and even a tennis match on the monitor. Yet he says the procedures were fast, accurate, and successful. I don’t see the difference between what they did and the appropriate use of an iPod

    Tiffany (the first commenter) is right. Finding the line between enough and too much is the single hardest thing for a leader.

    And nobody of any generation has ever liked getting lectured by some old coot. It doesn’t mean their advice is wrong but if the objective is to teach young people something valuable leaders ought to learn other ways (than lecturing) to get their message heard.

  14. Tim
    Tim says:


    After reading your post I have to say
    I would not want you working in my office. This has nothing to do with your stand on I-Pods–which is pretty funny–it has to do with your superior attitude and the little whine that eminates from it.

    and this: “An old supervisor once told me to put away my I-Pod. I did. Until he left the room!”
    What are you, five years old?

    You really need to check your ego at the door.
    Perhaps the reason you’re getting such comments from managers might be the fact that you’re not that great of an employee.

    Also, your concept of what a vacation is–sitting around getting a great tan–shows you really don’t know much about life yet. Seriously, it’s quite revealing.

    By the way, I work with and manage Gen Y’s and X’s.
    They’ve all been terrific employees, highly motivated and turnover is very, very low. But superior attitudes don’t cut it here. These employees are eager to learn, they do “stupid jobs brilliantly” and because of that, they get to do a lot of cool stuff, too.

    Listen, keep your I-Pod on at all times, roll your eyes when someone tells you to pay your dues, don’t take any vacation time–but keep that I-Pod on!, don’t listen to managers stories about how they moved up the food chain–why would you want to learn from their success and mistakes?, and "I wasted a huge part of my youth doing what you are doing." Wow. Sounds like you missed a great opportunity to learn something valuable. Listening to one’s mistakes is as valuable, if not more valuable, than listening to someone’s tales of success.

    Seriously, would you want to hire you?

  15. Bob Whaler
    Bob Whaler says:

    I’ve got to admit, I am highly suspect of “Ryan” writing from the point of view of the Gen Y’ers, yet he refers to the iPod as an I-Pod.

    It’s not a brand thing, it’s just that that generation doesn’t normally make those mistakes. Generally, it’s older folks.

    Either way, this post was far below the normal quality for this site. It was trite, cliched complaining.

    “Let us play our rock music loud Mom.”


    * * * * * * *
    Thanks for the proofreading. Changed the typo.

  16. Suze
    Suze says:

    And nobody of any generation has ever liked getting lectured by some old coot. It doesn't mean their advice is wrong but if the objective is to teach young people something valuable leaders ought to learn other ways (than lecturing) to get their message heard.

    You’re right. I would add that no one likes being lectured by *anybody*, young or old. Ryan just delivered a pretty stern scolding to his managers here, didn’t he?
    I agree with most of your points, Ryan, but the tone — wow! I feel like a five year old who has been spanked, humiliated and sent to the corner while daddy grins with glee.

    Wow, I didn’t realize my tone was that harsh. I’m glad to hear you agree with the main point of effective two-way communication.

  17. leslie
    leslie says:


    Great list! I find it interesting however that “don’t you wish you were on vacation all the time?”, couldn’t be met with a joking reply to get the office banter going. i.e. “Gee, I thought I was”.

    As you mentioned before, it is more important to be likable than perform your job well and this manager may have been trying in his own way to be more likable and less focused on work.

  18. Margaret
    Margaret says:

    Hi, Ryan, I always enjoy your posts. They remind me when I was in my twenties and thought I knew everything, too. A lot is going to happen — good, bad, ugly — in the next forty to fifty years. The best gift anyone can have is the humility to stop talking and listen.

    I have to say, having someone wear an iPod is a big improvement over the old days of having colleagues play their music through their computer or a little radio through headphones. Only thing with the iPod, though — it will cut in on your informal socializing time with your colleagues. Someone sticks their head around the corner, and you’ve got those earbuds in… not the most social position. You won’t get as bored with those in, so you’re less likely to seek a little chitchat to break up the monotony, too. Just saying.

  19. Barbara
    Barbara says:

    Lets face it, those of us who are under 30 are just smarter and more tuned into the world than anyone else in history. The way we do things is better. duh.

    god forbid a boss would have policies about musical devices. the boss is wrong is he has seen his 29th birthday. duh

    i love being part of “the greatest generation”. All the sacrifices we have had to face, do you know that the ipod did not exist when I was 10. duh.

    at 24 I have experienced more and know more than my parents, and every other person alive.

    Come on people…lets read this and all the other self serving posts for our generation and realize that we are idiots. I mean it. We are about as self centered as a human can be, to the point that we do not even see it.

  20. Alan
    Alan says:

    I think Gen X & Y should do what they can to make changes in the workplace, but don’t use too much energy in trying to change people’s minds. In a few years, most of these old, stodgy fossils (Boomers or whatever they’re called) will retire and X & Y will be the dominant generation at the workplace. So, please just be patient.

  21. Sue
    Sue says:

    I understand where Ryan is coming from. I am 34, so I am an Xer but went to college late (graduated in ’05) with Ys. I now work in a firm where I am one of three people under the age of 45, so I work with the boomers.

    Today, my boomer VP said “multi-tasking is over-rated and mostly unproductive”

    I plan to work on one task at a time from now on.

    Today’s task…getting my resume in order…


    You should tell your boss that that multi-tasking IS over-rated and pretty much impossible. Tell her you are an expert at “rapid task switching,” or fluidly moving from one task to another. This is what we really mean by multi-taskiing. It’s probably effective for many people. Again, see the comment from “Fred in IT” on this Employee Evolution post for a great summary of “rapid task switching.”


  22. David Harper
    David Harper says:

    The emphasis is misplaced. Age (generation) has less and less to do with it, these days. If you want freedom and respect, be a high performer and a valued contributor. It’s nice we can cite google practices, but if I am the 30th person to comment, then statistically, none of us would even quality for an interview at GOOG. Their culture owes in no small part to the fact they employ (on average) the best of the best. Generally, you don’t need to tell the top 0.05% to work hard, etc. More often, you need to beg them to take a break. Cultures vary.

    The important thing is not so much, how do i get my manager to behave like I think she/he should, but how do I become worthy of shaping the culture. The reality is: the top performers are in the best position to shape the culture. The others generally need to focus on becoming better before they engage in workplace revolutions.

    Where I have worked, valued contributors pretty much didn’t have to make these points. Companies have internal informal markets. Good managers don’t obsess on whether someone wears an ipod. That is, until there are performance problems…then maybe they wonder, is that ipod getting in the way.

    My problem with the twentysomething voice-segment of this blog is where it places its initial concern: on yours (the employee’s) needs. If you are a top performer, don’t worry, you won’t need to ask. Otherwise and until, you need to understand that a business exists to produce business results and you need to start with aligning yourself to that purpose. The business must have people executing on that purpose, so it can stay in existence, before it can engage in the cultural luxuries.

    If you start there (i.e., that your job is to contribute to a result, not to plead about your needs), you may even tolerate shouting, old-school bosses. I had a terrible boss a few years back, a real a*hole. He berated us. Then i noticed a real top performer, how she handled him. She focused on what she could learn from him (since he was a rainmaker), the rest was like water off a duck. She knew the goal: improve thyself. So everyone competed to work with her. That’s the path to freedom.

  23. Terry
    Terry says:

    Hello Ryan
    I worked at a pharmaceutical company a couple of years ago and we were not allowed listening to music. No one jetted away. But we did have a 35 hour work week, Friday afternoon's off in the summer, bonuses …etc.

    I worked hard in my twenties, partied hard and played plenty of sports.

    I advanced in my career by asking for promotions, or applying at another department. Later on I switched companies. I always backed up my promotions or raises with hard work, special projects and through embracing technology.

    I didn't worry too much about what silly things the older folk thought or said. Waste of time. I thought about what value I added to the company and whether I was being recognized for that value.

  24. dave
    dave says:

    Although I’m in my late 30s, I got my first computer in the 70s…so in a sense, I’m on the same page as the Millenials who’ve grown up with all these tech toys.

    That said, I think Ryan’s post smacks of entitlement. I’m not going to parse the whole thing, but here’s one good example. He writes:

    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."

    No one’s saying you’re stupid. By the same token, I’d be surprised to learn that your manager really gives a rat’s butt what you “don’t like to think of it as.”

    Get over the fact that the manager isn’t catering to what you “like to think of it as,” and focus on the work at hand.

    Ryan’s post corroborates the growing body of literature that 20-somethings need constantly to be coddled and babied, lest somebody hurt their widdle feewings.

  25. Stacey
    Stacey says:

    I gotta say, Ryan, that you really opened yourself up to a lot of attacks by complaining about semantics. I like your stuff and I see where you’re coming from, but you’ve got a ‘tude dude! (Sorry, that was cheesy.)

    Maybe you should think about toning down your rhetoric a little. It’s beginning to eclipse your message, at least for Penelope’s audience. You may want to consider having a friend read over your guest blogs, preferably that friend we all have who mediates whenever there’s a stupid group-fight over nothing…

  26. Greg
    Greg says:

    Bio: 44, married to a sahm, 2 preschool boys

    Ryan, if I may paraphrase what you wrote:

    Ryan's 5 Leadership Tips (as understood by Greg)

    1. Have a reason for policies and practices ("Put your iPod away." )

    2. Have a career path for employees ("Pay your dues.")

    3. Communicate satisfaction with job and career ("Don't you wish we were on vacation all the time?")

    4. Do not flaunt your position; just be a leader ("Before I was at the top of the food chain – ")

    5. Create a workplace where everybody contributes and everyone ("I wasted a huge part of my youth doing what you are doing.")

  27. Margaret
    Margaret says:

    Speaking to the earlier post about multitasking/”rapid task switching”… Linda Stone coined the term “constant partial attention”, where you are sorta paying attention to many things at once, i.e. multitasking. She’s on the fence whether it means that we’re growing more adept at managing the stream of sensory data flooding us, or if our attention spans are fizzling and our stress levels are soaring in response to endless stimuli.

  28. Jenn
    Jenn says:

    As a thirtysomething, and an X-er I dont agree much with this post. I guess maybe I am in the old fashioned end of it all. I do listen to music but not on my ipod. I also work with people who are hard of hearing and deaf. Congratulations to all those people who listen to their ipods that much! You will be my clients someday and many of you will be wearing hearing aids. I don’t agree with multi-tasking it is an over used word. Most people do not get as much done.
    Growing up and respecting older people for their wisdom/knowledge is a good thing. I don’t always think the twentysomethings value this knowledge as reflected in most of this posting. You just seem full of yourself.
    Don’t I wish I was on vacation all the time. Well yes I acutally do wish I didn’t have to go to work. However, I love my job. I can acutally say that but…. still wish I could be on vacation all the time. I will move up to take over the head position but I have gained that through proving myself, or paying my dues, working the lates, saying yes when I really didn’t want that task. Paying dues is an over used word too but…
    Don’t like it much.

  29. oldguy
    oldguy says:

    As an employer, I thought the tip about avoiding the term – and the attitude – of “pay your dues” was pretty useful. Yeah, young people have to learn, and grow, but there’s no functional reason that they have to be miserable during the early stages of their careers. It’s a small but useful way to refocus on what really is at issue. I’m not way concerned about using correct speak but I am pretty concerned about focusing on what really matters for the business, and there was a nugget there that actually has pretty profound implications.

    My life for the last ten years has been start ups. With every start up, you are creating a new corporate culture. One of the interesting things about corporate cultures is that, once they are formed, they are pretty much impossible to reform. They dig deep roots and complicated reinforcing links, so if you get it wrong the first time you have a neurotic company that you can’t really fix.

    Focusing on what actually matters to the business is a pretty good way to create a healthy and productive culture. It matters to the business that people have adequate experience and training for their next assignment. It does not matter that they spend years being subservient or being forced to do stuff they hate. As I think through the organizations I’ve been around with a “paying dues for the sake of paying dues” mentality, they were pretty neurotic organizations that didn’t function as well as they could have.

    As for iPods, it’s not as easy as Ryan thinks. Some people work well with background noise, and some don’t. Sometimes people do need to unplug the earbuds and focus on what they are paid for; sometimes they are more productive with the music going. People often don’t accurately grasp which category they fall into. I’ve known secretaries, for example, who thought they could work just as well with the radio or the iPod on, but who made a whole lot more mistakes with the music on. That doesn’t even get to the situations, such as driving a car or needing to hear coworkers, where earbuds blaring are either unsafe or inconsiderate. Just because you can work well – or even better – with the music going doesn’t mean everyone does, and sometimes companies have to have policies that apply to everyone. What worked in school – where you were basically a free agent working alone – doesn’t always work when there is a team and where policies have to be applied equally to all.

  30. Jon
    Jon says:

    1. Put your iPod away.
    Maybe you should. With a lot of time under my belt in a massive multinational, I can tell you that working hard will get you more work. Making friends will get you promoted. An ipod will isolate you and get you more work. It’s a crappy fact, but it’s a fact.

    2. Pay your dues.
    If you feel you are paying dues, you are probably in the wrong job. All the dues you pay won’t amount to much when you look back at a decade wasted.

    3. Don't you wish we were on vacation all the time?
    Your accomplishments won’t mean anything in ten years, and you can’t take any of the money or prestige with you if you get hit by a bus, so maybe you should want to feel like your on vacation all the time. Vacation is a state of being happy and relaxed.

    4. Before I was at the top of the food chain –
    Corporate America isn’t about work. It’s about who you know and who knows you. If someone up on the food chain is talking, he may be blowing smoke or offering advice. In either case, he may just be able to move you up, so let him talk. No one will remember the number of TPS reports you generated, but as a good listener, you will pick up a lot of information and make good connections to move you into a better position.

    5. I wasted a huge part of my youth doing what you are doing.
    As a long time corporate cog, consider that statement a warning. Most jobs are a waste of time. If you can get some tips to get ahead, get them.

  31. Paula
    Paula says:

    I’m a Boomer who NEVER thought I would live long enough to:

    1) See pointless policies (the iPod thing) contested out loud by the youngest and least powerful employees. You go!

    2) See my peers griping about “those kids” like a bunch of old fogies. How sad.

    I’ve liked and respected the Gen X’ers I’ve worked with and am convinced unfairly stereotyped as slackers. I expect to like Gen Y, who I suspect are unfairly stereotyped as spoiled and childish (as I think we were, in our own time) because of forces beyond their control.

    A lot of this junk would stop if managers could forget about dress codes and music modes and focus on actual tasks and goals.

    At bottom, this IS the problem. Managers need to feel “mirrored” and catered to, and youth have always resented it, as we did the so-called Greatest Generation. Sadly, demanding satisfaction of their insatiable ego needs seemed to be the thing they were “greatest” at in our eyes, thirty years ago, so a lot of our young work lives were filled with tasks so stupid as to be almost beyond modern belief.

    Meanwhile, American primacy in manufacturing and financial strength has dribbled away, so the “security” our parents told us to worry about is gone anyway.

    It wasn’t the “work ethic” that made us line the boss’ pencils up facing the same way every morning at 8, it was the promise of job safety. Since that’s gone, only reality remains to keep everybody on task.

    People have always wanted to think their efforts mattered, and they always will. It’s not a sin, it’s a basic drive.

  32. Marsha
    Marsha says:

    I’m a Gen-X entrepreneur who has employed anywhere from 10 to 210 people at a time, sold companies, bought companies, etc., etc., etc.

    Every time I read one of Ryan’s essays, I say a little prayer that he’ll never apply to any company with which I’m involved. His willful inability to believe that he has anything to learn from anyone has rendered him almost totally unemployable and certainly intolerable.

  33. Susan
    Susan says:

    Boomers and Millenials’ definitions of success are so different! The old status symbols (office, gold watch) just don’t appeal to us. I thought I had hit the jackpot when I got my own office. But my window faced a brick wall, my computer faced the stairway so anyone could view my work at any point, and it was so out of the way that no one ever stopped by (I was lonely and miserable but very productive).

    Now I share a 3-person office where we listen to the radio for the entire day, so I can have music without the potential social stigma of an iPod (not that other young workers are offended but they’re less likely to talk to you when you’re wearing headphones).

  34. Anonymous Coward
    Anonymous Coward says:

    To top this off, the focus on emotional intelligence and “self-searching” flooded the workspace with people who are both stupid (low IQ) and not motivated to achieve greatness in what they do (search for random crap all the time :-))

    Will Gen Z (?) be even more so? In this case, welcome to the world of China, Japan, India or whatever country (in this case, doesn’t matter) and goodbye to the world of USA, the empire fallen by laziness and stupidity …

    Sad indeed…

    However, many of the comments about top performers do give me hope… they really do.

  35. cynicalaboutbloggers
    cynicalaboutbloggers says:

    What a self-indulgent waste of space. I hope you are still blogging in 10 years so you can tell us how all this “advice” worked out for you. Get back to the mailroom – I guess it’s OK to wear your iPod there…

  36. Lea
    Lea says:

    Hey I have a question, more like a dilemma, I have this problem of getting annoyed when my supervisor sends me a appreciation mail, somehow I feel its fake, and he is just being formal here, If he really feels like appreciating he can copy the whole team right, but all my friends feel its just my mindset which needs to change, what do you say, how should supervisors appreciate.


    If praise or appreciation sounds fake, it probably is. I hate hearing "good job today," when I didn't really do anything great. For appreciation to be legitimate, there must be a legitimate reason behind it, and the manager should articulate that to you.

    To Rambler: Your boss is sending you an appreciation by e-mail in order for it to be documented and seen by the other people you work with. Why document? All those e-mails will add up by the time you get your evaulation, and your boss can use the e-mails as proof that you deserve a raise.

    Do those e-mails seem so worthless now????

    Ryan: How do *you* know that you didn’t do anything great to get that e-mail? Unless you’re monitoring the work and productivity of all of your coworkers and/or team members, AND you have a psychic connection regarding what your boss wants done on any given day, take the appreciation at face value. You can always respond with, “Thanks! I have even more in the works that I think you’ll be happy with.” That type of response shows that you appreciate the effort that was taken to document your work (see my response to Rambler), and shows that you have more to offer. Or use it as an opportunity to call attention to a project you felt you rocked and get your boss’ feedback: “I appreciate the note! By the way, have you had a chance to look at what I did with X? I’d love to get your feedback.”

    Both of you might want feedback from your managers that YOU feel is more meaningful, but you can catch more flies with honey than with vinegar. Manage up by appreciating what your boss is actually doing, because a lot of them don’t have time to bother. THEN follow up with a request that will point your boss in the direction that you want him/her to look.

  37. Fran
    Fran says:

    I agree with the list, especially the first one. It isn’t necessary to get rid of other people’s gadgets, especially if it has a contribution to that person’s performance.

  38. dave
    dave says:

    I was amused to see an article in today’s _New York Times_ on this very topic. And, of course, Ryan showing up in the article, sounding rude and entitled.

  39. Alan
    Alan says:

    I think it’s reasonable. We are human being and we have feelings. Even if their statements are not intentional, we always look our for it’s meaning.

  40. Helen
    Helen says:

    I’ve heard managers talk about and I think it’s indeed inappropriate. Statements like this make it look like managers are all superior. Employees will certainly don’t like it.

  41. L. Bates
    L. Bates says:

    Your advice is interesting, but not all of it is well-thought out, IMHO.

    First, many companies do not allow iPods in the office, particularly in the technology sector. Why, you ask? Because an iPod is not just a music and video device. IT’S A HARD DRIVE. It’s easy to copy your files, potentially confidential information, and company-owned work product onto a device that can be made to look innocuous.

    Second, paying your dues is…just that. I think your comment about rephrasing it as “selilng yourself” is a result of the baby boomers ruining Gen Y by making everything softer to protect self-esteem. Stop being polictically correct and PAY YOUR DUES. There’s 20,000 other kids like you graduating b-school every May. You won’t have everything softened up for you by us baby boomers and Gen X’ers that will be around for AT LEAST another 30 years.

  42. Onslow
    Onslow says:

    Give please. The charity that hastens to proclaim its good deeds, ceases to be charity, and is only pride and ostentation.
    I am from Senegal and learning to speak English, tell me right I wrote the following sentence: “Visit aegean web site, find out its schedules, promotions and news and make your ticket reservation on line.”

    Waiting for a reply :P, Onslow.

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