A professional whinge about managing a younger workforce
Managing staff is the least favourite part of my job, and it is the part of which I have put the most amount of time into developing. There is a huge number of resources dedicated to dealing with staff, from effective feedback to creating productive working environments, and they’re all really good… at dealing with staff that have been in the workforce for a while and know the rules.
I have a young staff. They are terrible. Hiding in numbers, turning up late to work, somehow thinking their social needs outweigh their employment obligations. It’s a nightmare, but I love it. I love the challenge, the turmoil, the thrill of half the staff coming down with the plague come festival season. But it is a symbiotic relationship that I share with my staff: Without me, they are useless; without them, I have no way to justify my meagre salary. These are some of the harsh realities I have come to learn.
Staff will disappoint you in new and exciting ways.
I don’t think anyone is not guilty of occasionally skipping work to go to a party, or stretching out a weekend just a little bit longer with the help of the fabled lurgy. You would think it would be common sense not to tag yourself on Facebook, rocking a bikini instead of a hospital gown. You would think that it would be common sense not to add your boss on Snapchat, and fill your story with jello shots when your grandmother is ‘literally dying’. Sadly, I can attest that it is not.
These hilarious shenanigans don’t stop there, oh no. Half-assing this, mucking up that; it’s a real problem that, sometimes, young employees just don’t think out their actions, or fail to understand the consequences of said actions. That could be through being poorly trained to complete a task, failure to report something (damage, a potential hazard), to straight up negligence. For a lot of them, this is the first time that they have been held fully accountable for their actions, and still believe that an omnipotent parental figure will swoop in and protect them from harm.
Developing a feedback system that doesn’t involve shock collars will take creativity
I straight up tease my employees when they mess up. Is it the best way to give feedback? No. Is it fun? Hell yea. This method may not work for everyone, but any method that allows you to communicate the outcomes of actions, and the reasons behind said actions, effectively without disengaging the employee, or physically assaulting them, is a good one. I want them to know they screwed up, and I want them to feel embarrassed, but, most of all, I want them to try again and adjust their behaviour to achieve a better result. A good employee is like a scientist, and will correct their behaviour to achieve a better outcome. A bad employee is like a cancer, you zap them with high energy radiation and hope that they go away.
This leads back to the previous point of not understanding consequences of actions - A young employee doesn’t always understand that what they do has an outcome, and can falsely believe that what they do serves no real purpose. They’ll keep believing that if you fix their problems for them and don’t give them feedback. When they succeed, I want them to feel empowered, not relieved to avoid punishment. A small correction in behaviour does not need an iron fist.
Realise that staff aren’t going to work for you forever
Staff turnover can be one of the single biggest headaches as a manager. Spending months training, correcting, and growing an employee, just to have them leave for a brighter opportunity. Young staff just don’t see the point in working for one company for a long time, and I agree with them. As much as I hate seeing good staff go out and succeed, the ones I pinch off other people are worth their weight in gold (or at least a hard wood of some kind). If they’re offered more money than you’re willing to pay, or they’ve learnt all they can from the company, sometimes all you can do is wave goodbye, and take credit for their future success.
Realise that some staff just don’t want to learn, and the ones that do, may not realise you’ve helped them at all.
An employee once told me that they didn’t feel like I had taught them much during their time. This is an employee that I constantly tried to involve in projects, engage in trainings, and even assign pop quizzes to; all of these being postponed and ultimately forgotten by the employee. That was a bit of a kick in the teeth but, at the end of the day, I do think they drastically improved. So long as they are able to do their job to a high enough standard, it’s not the end of the world if they do not want to actively up skill; if they are struggling to do their job, and refuse to up skill, then you have a problem that may need permanent correction (see attached picture of high-powered radiation gun).
The point is that, you won’t always be thanked for developing a staff member, you may have to fight them every step of the way. As a manager, I don’t think it’s your only job to manage a business, I think it to be a lot more rewarding developing employees. Even if, sometimes, you have to get your rewards vicariously through the success of those you have helped shape along the way.
At the end of the day, we all sucked once, and some of us still do. If we are wanting to teach, we must be ready to learn, too. I learnt how to ‘dab’ from one of my staff the other day, and I guess you could say that the exchange of information between generations is pretty ‘dank’.
Realise you don’t know how to dispose of a body properly and now you’ve written an online article that could probably be used against you in a court of law.
This article was written by Sam Floyd; a professional whinger, copywriter, tongue-in-cheek blog writer and bar manager. If you're interested in hearing more from him or asking him to help you write fancy words too you can contact him here.