The Help Desk: Do I embrace gen-Y office behaviour?
Every month, we tackle a question from a reader and get advice from the right experts in a variety of fields to help answer it
by Alberta Venture Staff
Q: My gen-Y employees somehow missed the memo on proper office behaviour. They text at work, dress inappropriately and they’re constantly late. How can I get them in line? Or am I supposed to embrace this kind of behaviour?
A: You’re not alone in noticing that millennials (born after 1980) don’t seem to grasp office behaviour norms. Earlier this year, a study from the Center for Professional Excellence at York College of Pennsylvania, found that American HR professionals have similar concerns. More than a third felt professionalism has decreased among new hires over the past five years, while more than half said these new hires displayed “entitlement.” In some cases, millennials don’t even get past the job interview. Texting during the interview, or bringing their parents (yep, that happens) probably don’t help.
Debbie Blakeman, managing director of people and culture at ATB Financial, says the key to office behaviour bliss is to hire people who fit the image and culture you want to create. However, if you’re having trouble with your young employees, you’ve clearly already missed that opportunity. So how to salvage the situation?
First, it’s not necessary to look at your problem from just a generational perspective. “[Bad office etiquette] can happen with any generation, it doesn’t just happen with millennials,” says Blakeman. And like all on-the-job training, teaching office etiquette should be approached with the individual employee in mind. Make sure your expectations are clear and demonstrate proper behaviour. Expecting young employees to catch on to unspoken, unwritten rules will leave you disappointed. Also, make sure older employees are giving polite etiquette advice to those younger employees. Millennials often turn to peers in their cohort for advice, which can occasionally lead them astray – so make sure they’re getting guidance outside of gen-Y.
If all else fails, Blakeman says, consider sending your employees to a DIY charm school. “Some of our lines of business actually run professional etiquette programs,” she says. At ATB, these programs are for employees across the generational spectrum, and teach people how to conduct themselves in a professional business setting. You may not get rid of the helicopter parents, or SMS addictions, but millennials can fit in at your workplace nonetheless.
Next Month: You’ve got your web presence. But is it mobile?