Giving feedback to Millennials

Millennials are often a mystery to older workers.  But they basically want the same things; meaningful work, good relationships and a bright future. They emphasize different things.  They don’t want the 30 year job.  They don’t want lots of accumulated stuff.  They want mobility, flexibility, and a say in how to do their work … and they want feedback.

They tend not to see age and hierarchy as indicators of wisdom (see Dunning Kruger effect – recently popularized) and are not eager to take feedback in the traditional way from their managers.  I think all young workers have always been that way, but the flavor of the Millennial perspective is driving how we change our work habits and structures in ways that other generations haven’t.  We have been pulling away from the military model for management since the 80’s and the transition is almost complete with this generation.

As a manager of Millennials, you have an opportunity to use a methodology for giving feedback that can work for many people, except the most risk averse, and make you a better manager.  Sit on the same side of the table (metaphorically).  Orient yourself to being a partner rather than a manager.

  1. Ask “What are you proudest of?” “Where did you help someone else accomplish something that I don’t know about.”  What kind of progress did you make on your accountabilities?  This gives you the opportunity to acknowledge them for something that is valuable to them and sets the tone for the meeting.
  2. Outline the numbers:  Present to the employee the goals they were supposed to achieve and how successful they were.
  3. Have a feedback session that isn’t completely pointed at the millenial. Think in terms of, “We have a partnership, and you and I are both parts of it.” I’m interested in how you think I could partner better and how you think you could partner better. ” Perhaps to get the conversation started, ask them, “If you had it to do over, what one thing would you have done differently this year?  And what about one thing I could have done differently,… and why.

Formal sessions aren’t the best for giving feedback, but some companies require it.  Even though you should be giving feedback regularly, make the best of each session for both of you.

Watch this blog for more about this topic in the future.  What is your best advice for giving feedback?




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