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Opinion: Stop complaining about the new workforce

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They don’t show up for scheduled interviews and when they do, they don’t know anything about your company. They have terrible soft skills and some even bring friends to their interview for support. Even when you find a good one, they often quit before they start but forget to notify you.

When you do manage to find one who shows up for work, they start making demands on day one. This example was shared at a conference: A new employee approached the company CEO and demanded her favorite candy bar delivered to her desk every day. When the CEO decided to oblige, the employee complained that he had selected miniature-size candy.

What is making all this worse is that we need this new generation in the workforce so badly. The continued development of our economy depends on it. The great “sansdemic” is still upon us: We don’t have enough workers to replace the retiring baby boomers. It’s a long-term and predictable shortage in generational numbers that will continue to get worse through the rest of this decade.

A few years ago, I bought a new car. I priced the various options and went to the dealer to present my demands. The dealer fell all over themselves trying to meet my demands because the car lot was full, and they wanted to move some vehicles. This year, I bought another car, and the market was completely different. There were no options. The dealer gave me a price and didn’t really seem to care if I took it or not because there were so many other buyers waiting to get their limited supply.

The supply of workers is low, and the employees can feel the power shift. I hear a lot of executives complaining about the new generation of the workforce. Many ask my advice. My advice is simple: Get over it.

Complaining about an entire generation of the workforce is simply not helpful and creates exhaustion. Furthermore, the new generation (as well as every new generation before it) has already heard it, and they are getting tired of it.

I recently spoke to an employee who is in his early 20s. This person is the model of what you want in an employee. He works very hard. He even spends much of his off time sharpening his skills through mentors and by studying his craft. Yet, his employer recently made major changes to his benefits package while explaining to him that it is just policy. It doesn’t feel like policy to him. It feels personal.

Here is the brutal truth. We often don’t treat our new employees well. We roll our eyes at their ideas, we put them in their place, and we scoff at their lack of punctuation in text messages and their desire to take weekends off. Millennials and Gen Zers share a common trait in that they are both intolerant of bad management. Telling them that they are lazy and need to earn their place at the table is simply not how people work best.

If you think all your younger workers are lazy, then psychology tells us that you will look for and find laziness in your young workers. What is worse, you’ll manage them as if they are lazy, and they will lower themselves to meet your expectations.

Conversely, if you find ways to engage your young workforce and set proper expectations, they will rise to the occasion. I have seen many Gen Zers work extremely hard and become fiercely dedicated to their employers. I’m not talking about coddling them, which leads to entitlement. I’m talking about truly engaging your young workers by getting to know them, challenging them, and recognizing what they bring to the table.

The employment market has shifted, and we are hearing weird hiring stories regarding employees of all generations but especially of the new generation. Employees are feeling their power at the hiring table. At the same time, we are seeing managers and executives get frustrated, creating a less-than-ideal work environment that fulfills their negative prophecy of laziness and entitlement.

Get over it. Treat your people like they will be successful, and most will be. It’s too hard to truly develop a workforce if you dislike the people you are developing.

Don Harkey is the owner and CEO of People Centric Consulting Group LLC. He can be reached at donharkey@peopleccg.com.

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