Stop griping about millennials, and start teaching us

Editors and other supervisors should find lessons in every assignment given to Generation Y.


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Full disclosure: I’m part of the millennial generation. Think what you want.

This isn’t going to be another rant about the unfair judgments people make about my generation as a whole. Nor it is about the dumb stuff some of my peers do that make us all look bad in the eyes of bosses and colleagues.

This is a very sincere request that people in supervisory positions be leaders, bosses and mentors to young professionals, making it difficult for us to perpetuate all those negative stereotypes. It’s a millennial’s plea.

Stop whining about why we suck, and start teaching us. Even if it’s the the hard way.

Edit the crap out of what we write.

Seriously, do not spare our feelings when you’re reviewing our drafts. Sure, flag typos or grammar mistakes, but if we totally missed the point of the assignment, failed to include important information, got lazy about formatting or company writing standards and the like, make sure we know about it.

It sucks to see something you wrote get ripped apart with a red pen, but the impact of seeing it and having to fix each mistake one by one will do wonders for quicker improvement. If we send you a draft, you edit it and never show us where you made changes, it’s really difficult to learn. Show us where we made mistakes. You’ll make us better writers. As a supervisor, your job will always be easier if your staff comprises good writers.

Make us take notes in meetings.

We should have enough sense to be doing this anyway, but if we’re responsible for taking notes for someone else’s benefit, we’re going to listen more carefully, think more critically about what we hear and learn how to pull the important information out of the discussion.

If you can offer a little prep or background before the meeting starts, then great, it’ll help us better understand the big picture. If we know someone else is relying on our notes, we’ll put the phone away, pay attention, be better listeners and maybe even be able to contribute some decent ideas.A big bonus to supervisors is that we may catch something you didn’t, or point out a knowledge gap you may not realize needs to be filled.

Make us defend our ideas.

Not in terms of a debate about who is right and who is wrong, but if you are going to seek our input, ask us questions about why we’ve arrived at that conclusion and make us explain it.

  1. It’ll help teach us to more eloquently express what we mean.
  2. It’ll make us take a critical look at what we’re about to say before we say it.
  3. We’ll do our research to try to avoid looking stupid.
  4. We’ll learn to listen first and then speak up later.

If you teach us critical thinking like this, we’ll be a lot better at contributing meaningful and relevant ideas to projects of all kinds. Isn’t it easier to supervise someone who cranks out solid ideas?

Make us show our research process.

If we know we’ll have to show you how we found information, we’re going to do a better job of keeping track of things along the way. This will make everyone’s life easier when it comes time to source facts or defend a conclusion. We’ll also tend to work harder at finding more reliable sources of information and won’t fall into the Wikipedia rut as easily.

As a supervisor, you’ll be able to see our thought process as to what we think is reliable information and help us shake bad research habits by pointing out where we went wrong. You’ll also be able to teach us how to package our research in a way that’s helpful to others. Over time, knowing how to validate what we claim will become second nature to us. And you’ll know your work has solid legs to stand on.

Make us responsible for the outcome of our work.

It’s one thing to bust our butts to help with something we know someone else will get credit for. If it’s done well, we’ll always feel slighted if no one ever knows how hard we worked at a success. If it’s done poorly, we’re let off the hook way too easily for not creating better work. If we’re a major part of a project, make sure we’re associated with it when it goes up the ladder—for better or worse. Teaching us to take responsibility for what we work on will teach us how to deal with all types of feedback. It’ll make us stronger. And it only helps you as a supervisor if our work is stronger.

Young professionals are eager to learn and contribute. Not every millennial is going to be a stellar employee, but the better job supervisors do of mentoring and teaching, the better staff they’re going to have. Really, it just benefits the higher-ups in the long run to cultivate young talent. So, next time your young employee messes up or ticks you off, try to look for a teaching opportunity. You won’t regret it.

Becky Johns blogs at I’m Working On It.

Topics: PR

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