Millennials aren’t coddled—they just reject abuse as a management tactic

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Younger employees keep getting stereotyped as insecure and needy. Perhaps the rest of us need to reconsider why we find it normal for bosses to be jerks

Recently, the University of British Columbia’s faculty of medicine circulated a video meant to make its instructors aware of “student mistreatment.” With a minor-chord piano medley providing the soundtrack, viewers were asked to avoid putting students on the spot with questions, to minimize “cold and clinical” interactions, and to cultivate “safe” learning environments for the young residents.

Continued: Millennials aren’t coddled—they just reject abuse as a management tactic

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38 Comments Posted

  1. One thing is consistent, Millenials Ageism. As long as they triangulate others into helping them justify it, they are cool with everything being anyone’s fault but theirs. Wondering when they are going to start blaiming Z for thier apathy. This article is disgusting and discriminatory.

      • So, what the hell is wrong with soft? I’ve never tolerated work colleagues – and that includes superiors – treating me badly. We have a right to demand civility in the workplace, and to say and respond when we don’t get it.If that’s soft, then soft is better than whatever sort of asshole you are.

      • Yeah, as opposed to shitty managers who can’t take it when somebody give them a well-reasoned critique of their stupid points of view. The fact is that coddling has been going on forever. It’s just that it’s incompetent people in positions of power who have been coddled.

        It’s a sign of weakness that we need to protect those who supposedly got to positions of influence based on their ability.

    • The fish rots from the head down. Donald Trump blames his failures on others, when it is purely because of his own laziness – golfing in Florida instead of working Congress into passing his legislation.

  2. Sometimes it’s just about doing the job that you’re paid to do. Feelings are irrelevant. An asshole boss who simply abuses can go to hell, but when the boss calls you out on your inefficiency or your lack of attention or whatever, your reasons DO NOT MATTER. Your bosses don’t need an explanation and neither do you. They get paid to oversee work and to streamline production. Feedback from the employees is important, but justifying and defending your actions each time you get constructive criticism from a superior or dragging out meetings so that everyone can hear your opinion does not add value to the company or team. Millenials need to understand that everything does not have bend to their sensitive egos and that they, too, need to learn values in the workplace from the different generations.

    Sincerely, from an older millennial

    • Why would you not try to justify your actions after spending weeks working on something, then facing criticism? Of course you should listen to what is being said and apply it, but in this situation typically the person doing the work knows a lot more about the topic, and the boss comes in to be an asshole just to make himself feel good.

      • Just because you spent weeks on something doesn’t mean it’s immune to criticism or even any good at all. Jesus. Easy to tell when millennials chime in. The comment about bosses not knowing anything is really classic.

        • I mean, as a tech employee who has always worked for someone less knowledgeable about my work than I am

          Yes. This happens all the damn time. I have my boss bring me things to do, saying he doesn’t know how or what to do, then complain when it’s not done on a time schedule he believes reasonable.

          Or if a supervisor has a short term task “why isn’t this done?” “Well, this is everything I’ve done today since you gave it to me, all things I believe I’m required to do-” “I don’t want to hear any excuses” The point isn’t to make an excuse, if you really wanted to fix the problem you’d tell them what they did wrong or have some kind of priority hierarchy.

          “I don’t want to hear any excuses” is a sure-fire way to turn off what could be a meaningful dialogue, because it pretty clearly states that there won’t be one.

          In my workplace and others, I see, far too often, “holding accountable” be a glorified phrase that amounts to nothing more than pushing blame down the ladder when it ought to go up.

          • I completely understand the feeling. My job is also a tech job and literally no one in the company aside from my boss and maybe one other person grasp what I do.

            My work consists of a lot of various tasks that change day to day (re: “putting out fires” as I like to call it) along with some long term projects. My boss likes to add on more things all the time so between regular tasks, emergency fixes, and the added workload, my long term projects never get the chance to be worked on. Then I get asked why those long term projects aren’t done and I’m apparently giving excuses when I list out all of the other things I did instead that I was told were important.

            It’s not right or fair to base employee performance off of tasks that you don’t give them proper time to complete or to hold them accountable for your unwillingness to hire more people to take care of the extra workload in a growing company.

          • Thank you, that’s beautifully put! I work in IT sector tok, although a supporive process function and I see it every day. If your manager is just a business manager, kt really a people manager and doesn’t know how to do your job, half of your time is spent managing expectations and explaining, explaining, explaining.

    • Justifying your decisions is an INCREDIBLY important part of doing good work and creating innovative ideas and products. even if your employer doesn’t like the end result, the process and thoughts behind it can help create dialogue to improve and fix issues and garner better ideas. I agree that we don’t need to ask bosses to be all soft and emotional, but we shouldn’t ask employees to be soft sheep either. If somebody criticizes your work, you explain your motives so that a better understanding can be reached and shit can get done. What time era was it productive to let a boss push you around and you sheepishly comply and without any backbone or constructive discussion? Sounds like a shitty time when nothing got done and nobody innovated anything. Hard work, leading by example, understanding underlings, and helping people excel have been qualities of good leaders since the fucking dawn of humankind. Revered and remembered military leaders, monarch, and historical figures were inspiring leaders who made people WANT to work for them. Were they hard asses? You betcha, most of the time. But being a hard ass and having high expectations from your employers is not synonymous with abuse and degradation. As a 24 year old who has worked her ass off since she was 15 years old, put herself through school and full time employment and struggled with an apathetic family that forced her to do everything her self, I can say that I have worked hard for many different types of managers and instructors. Being strong and being an ass are not the same. The teachers and bosses I’ve strived the hardest for demanded perfection from me and forced me to work hard. But they made me WANT to be perfect and to do well because they CARED. I’ve had work ripped apart my someone, but bc of the amazing, constructive leader they were, it only made me want to work harder. And I’ve had insipid soft people tear apart my work in passive-aggressive “nice voice” that made me want to throw punches. Don’t act like (on either sides of the argument) that being a jerk is just part of life or that being “nice” gets people to follow you. It’s not that simple and it never has been or ever will be.

    • I agree…the problem is a lack of understanding what it means to “work”. The idea of being mentally present and trying to do your job the whole time you are being paid to do it is lost. Mean isn’t cool or productive; however the problem is that asking an employee time and time again to put their cell phone away is perceived as mean.

  3. As a Gen X manager of some millennials, and having worked for some of the “assholes” over the years, I can say, my experience has been that millennials are smart, learn quickly how to be savvy and respond much better to a less aggressive approach to management. They pick up new information like a sponge, and will work hard for someone that is not brow beating them but rather helping them to learn and to succeed.

    • I’d like to second this – 40 yr old manager of millennials, 1st and 2nd year uni students. I have found that when I take a light touch with them, making clear that my role is:

      a) to prioritize their work rather than micromanage it, or babysit them
      b) to facilitate their work when they face obstacles beyond their pay grade, or need additional resources
      c) to support their skill improvement and help them get exposed to as wide a variety of situations as is reasonable

      that I am consistently amazed by their work ethic, their ingenuity, and their strong desire to impress with what they can do.

      I think it’s probably important, as well, to make clear through your actions and how you communicate, that your assumption about incoming employees is that they will behave as responsible (young) adults. To be sure, adults who have much to learn – but who will, with some guidance, earnestly work to realize the potential you see in them.

      TLDR It’s almost as if when you treat these kids with respect, they usually rise to your expectations and beyond!

  4. 68-year-old white guy here: I think the Millennials have a lot to offer and I enjoy working with them. My fellow Baby Boomers may forget that our elders often complained about us, just as their parents no doubt grumbled about them. I put up with ridiculous working conditions years ago, and am glad to see workers today are more willing to stand up for work/life balance etc.

    • I am a Gen X’er… People complained about us 20-25 years ago, same thing as Millennials now. It is a rite of passage, I guess, to denigrate the younger generation. It doesn’t make it right, though.

  5. One major difference is that Boomers think of work in terms of processes, and often times the critique or focus is put on “are you doing A-Z.” They sometimes lose track of the big picture, the end game and the client goals, and in this day and age streamlining is everything. Millenials are better at saying, ok I understand the process of A-Z, but if the end result of Z is all that matters, why don’t I use software, social media, etc, to jump from A-M and then M-Z? (the only time this could backfire is if “B” was needed for legal purposes)

  6. As someone who has held numerous management positions, been sole proprietor of three small businesses, and currently is CEO of a company…I am all for employees rejecting abuse from managers. However, I have tried in the past to respond to employee errors with compassion and SFW humor rather than anger and discipline – especially when the employee should be expecting to be fired. Guess what? With the millennial age range, this tactic has backfired EVERY. SINGLE. TIME. It is much less drama to just fire them and train a replacement…and it is sometimes less expensive.

  7. I agree 70%. As someone who has managed several Millenials and according to some definitions I’M a Millenial myself (I’m in-between generations), I’ve noticed that there is a certain attitude toward having to deal with the non-sexy, hard labor, shitty parts of getting to the end result which is distinct to some Millenials. I think it’s partly because of their upbringing and partly because they are intelligent and want to apply their minds to more difficult challenges. It is a bit tiresome for managers to have to nurture tasks and assignments around everyone’s needs and feelings when there are a million things that just need to get done. Especially in a deadline driven environment. I know I have often been less than sensitive in the midst of projects, not because I’m rewarded for being a hardass but because I’m expected to deliver on time. To me, what is described in this article are just asshole managers. I think conflating it with generational cluelessness is misleading and damaging. I’ve had exceptional managers who were in their 60’s and awful ones in their 30’s. The danger in my mind is that this kind of victimhood can be used as a method to wield power when you feel insecure and defensive, and all new students and employees are insecure because they have no experience. You already see it in many US universities where professors are self-censoring themselves due to fear of being fired and depriving their students of the full spectrum of knowledge by placing kindness and comfort above truth, skills and information. Anyway, I’m not saying this is black and white. Offending people is not a virtue (I personally find people who model themselves after Steve Jobs less than appetizing dinner company) but the general consensus of offense should be demarcated as a norm, not applied to every person’s individual feelings.

  8. I have been “the nice guy boss” as I have a mostly Millennial Team. What I have learned: being the nice guy boss got me nowhere and these people walked all over me and did not do their job. Once I just got straight up real and told them they were not performing to standards…tada! That was the magic key to getting my non performing people to perform. Long story short, tell them what they are not doing to meet your production standards and it is amazing how well they will do regardless of their phone addiction.

  9. I can’t help but think that all these butt-hurt boomers commenting are subscribing to confirmation bias. It only takes one “less than as hard working as you would expect” millennial to paint us all lazy. Yes, it’s a right of passage from generation to generation to have think pieces about how bad the next generation is, but honestly, boomers have no right to that right of passage. Most of the people I know either have 3-4 jobs or make $800 per month. They are hard working and intelligent. Boomers, on the other hand, are all about fucking up and finger pointing. Boomers are the only generation to leave things worse off than they were. They are the generation of instant gratification and we are the generation of cleaning up your messes.

    Get off our case already. We’re paying the debts on the credit cards you ran up. At least have some dignity and sprinkle in a little prudence if you don’t mind.

      • Except by the vast majority of metrics, we aren’t, making your contention pure garbage. Insofar as the younger generation is “running up debts,” it’s with things like student loans where the system is as screwed up as it is mainly thanks to greedy boomers screwing up the financing of public postsecondary education. And by the time paying that debt is an actual issue, most of you leeching, me-me-me assholes will be thankfully dead anyway.

  10. Hmmm. Where to start. Like a lot of you, I’ve been fortunate to be in a supervisorial capacity in one way or another for over half my life. When I was the inexperienced supervisor I took my cues on how to supervise from the owner of the company…make them fear you. While it did eventually get the necessary results, the people actually doing the work despised working there and would eventually realize that mental health was far more valuable than financial health. As I gained more experience and educated myself on other management styles and practices in other countries, I tossed the antiquated fear based management style and started to develop a style that was inclusive very similar to Kaizen. Sure, there are still bad apples, but when those issues arise I ‘toss them a rope'(I have them tell me what I can do to help facilitate their success). They can either use it to ‘pull themselves up’ or ‘hang themselves.’ My success rate regarding team building, employee motivation, retention is MUCH better this way than with brow beating people into submission. The age, color, gender doesn’t matter when you treat them ALL like fellow human beings.

  11. Let’s not conflate ‘constructive criticism’ with disrespect. It is true older generations delt with, and accepted excoriation as a norm in the work force.

    Modern times are less regressive than they were back in ‘the old days.’ Today people have more respect for themselves, which is why we don’t want to be treated as door mats anymore at the work place. If people are going to conflate disrespect with constructive criticism then that person is small-minded and not worth trying to explain the difference between the two. Also some people who get angry at others who just want to be treated decently are a special kind of ignorant; people who cling to old-fashioned and traditional mentalities never accept alternative ideas and associate them with weakness. I wouldn’t expect them to understand Millennials which is why millennials are criticized the way they are for wanting nothing more then a little basic respect.

  12. Hello, in my experience as a millennial who is in a managerial position is that people are people regardless of their age. Most of the people I manage are baby boomers or genXers. My management style is to be open and kind with all my staff however if something needs to change I simply tell my staff. And if they are not meeting the expectations of the job I have a process of trying help them succeed and then if that doesn’t work we go through the process of reprimands/firing. Now there will be the occasional person that will see that as being weak and try to walk all over me. That simply doesn’t work because while I am open and kind with my staff I also hold them to a very high standard. And if they are unable to meet that standard then I don’t need them as staff. But if I have staff that are struggling and they shape up after we talk about how to help them succeed I find that those staff feel more comfortable with me and more willing to go the extra mile for me. With all of that being said I tend to have the most trouble with staff that are of the baby boomer generation. I don’t think that is because of any generational bias or character flaws. I think that is just because most of my staff are baby boomers. And then when they find out that just because I try to be a team rather than “a boss and staff person” does not mean that I am a doormat everything tends to turn out wonderfully.

  13. I’m a millennial. I don’t know if it’s where I live or perhaps a perspective thing, but I can honestly say I’ve never worked with another millennial who’s been emotional and needy. My work environment is very diverse in age and personality. I work with boomers and X’ers who fit the Millennial stereotype as well as actual millennials who are the cutthroat, down to business type. My boss is a boomer, and I find I have to spend the most time walking on egg shells when I have to deal with her and her insecurities. Because of this, I can’t help but feel this is all a bunch of todo about nothing.

  14. We taught them everything they know.
    We taught them that loyalty doesn’t matter, that money is the only thing that matters.
    We taught them to piss in a cup, because no one is trustworthy and your boss is allowed to dictate your personal life.

    We taught them that loyalty to a corporation will get you screwed over.
    We taught them that religion is a hate fest by warring armies.
    They are our legacy.

  15. Why not a little from column A, a little from column B? The idea of a bad, or “toxic,” boss and a coddled, overly sensitive employee are not mutually exclusive. In virtually any job, career, profession, or hobby there are going to be aspects to the performance of one’s duties/affections that just do not appeal (or, comparatively, lack appeal). The awareness to recognize what needs to be done and why, and the discipline to follow through and do it without being continuously supervised are hugely important. A good boss defines the duties and expectations, a good employee executes (with minimal supervision). A good boss should be willing to underwrite honest failure (and use it as a learning point). Honest failure means both parties endeavored to their utmost to accomplish a task a did not. However, a good boss MUST take issue with sloth, disobedience or complacency. Failure through lack of effort or lack of discipline are not acceptable and tolerating them, over time, erodes performance of the entire organization. These are things that should be dealt with quickly and decisively.

    If an organization is consistently coming up short because leaders and subordinates are under performing, or toxic, that’s a signal that the hiring, retention and culture of the organization are grossly out of tolerance. Looking for a toxic boss might be a starting point if an organization is competent it’s getting the right sort of talented employees. However, even good bosses will need to eliminate under performing employees from time to time.

  16. Millennials are soft

    Basically is

    I had to out up with awful, demeaning, sexist bullshite so you should to.

    Rather than the “I worked to make the world a better place, I hope you continue to make work more of a pleasure for future generations than going through hell because I did”

    Work does not have to be demeaning or hellish.
    When I left my first low down customer service job where I had worked my ass off to learn stuff I didn’t need to (which the older generation on my team thought was pointless because why do more work when you don’t have to). When we got made redundant after the financial crisis an older person landed a job at AXA on new claims, the offered to refer me as I was struggling as the previous job offer fell through after my sick days were confirmed (despite my being 110% up front about my illnesses that office said they didn’t allow sick says so I’m bloody happy they finally told me that information as it wasn’t near as forthcoming as myself).

    She had about 10,15 years of experience in the industry over me. I’d worked in 1 car insurance claims job, and had a few more sick days than people want.

    Yet I got hired so fast I was shocked. I said I was starting on x day, she said I must be wrong as no new people were coming in on the team she was on. I said what floor I was on and she swore, a lot. Apparently no one gets hired to that floor. Only promoting within, rarely. I also didnt have a job title. They’d invented one. I was on the high claim red team, youngest person was about 30 years my senior. They showed me what was wrong said to answer 50 calls at least a day and see what else I could do. I ended up hitting 90, started a process to clear huge 8 year back logs. Created a manual for new people including using the system I’d only just learnt. Spend up the costs of every case in the entire office making cost calculation xl spreadsheets and a ton of other stuff.

    I ended up becoming a team leader of people they fired for me, and after a year all the bosses were arguing over me.

    I was never mean. I never intimidated. I encouraged independent ideas and side projects as long as the base calls and files were managed.

    I think a lot of it came from a extra course I took in college on top of my Alevels. It was 6pm to 9pm so it never bothered my other courses. And it was in counselling. So the red cases that included a death always came to me. I was also better at detecting fraud than people on the fraud team which is why they kept pushing for my transfer lmao!!

    But yes Tl.dr. I never followed what the previous generation told me to so, I don’t see the point is suffering just because a person older than me did. I have plenty of character and don’t need it to be built by suffering Pointlessly.

    Just because you suffered and get some sick satisfaction out of wanting other people to suffer doesn’t mean it’s good for the workforce. It’s bad.

  17. Or.. maybe we shouldn’t. We shouldn’t make excuses for poor behavior and the inability to cope with… life. Maybe we should hold them accountable for their actions, outlook and behavior, rather than rationalize it and “make everything OK”.

    How old is the person that wrote this>

  18. The problem is that in crisis medical situations you will often be confronted with situations to which you don’t know the answer, and you need to learn how to respond positively to not knowing the answer – my supervisor puts me on the spot with a question I can’t answer… the correct response is “I don’t know, but give me a minute and let me look that up” – which is what you would do in the emergency room if you weren’t familiar with something – the incorrect answer is to have your feelings hurt and mope. Maybe the students need to be modeled how to deal with those situations before being put in them… but for medical students especially, the test of character seems like an important one to master.

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