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"Don’t Let Good Young Workers Get into Downward Spirals"

Posted by Tulgan, Bruce at Wednesday, 02/06/2013 4:45 pm
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So often Gen Yers, particularly those in the middle of the performance spectrum, lose interest in a job or start having negative feelings about an organization because they are struggling with their work. One young person we interviewed put it this way -- she said, “If I feel like I’m having a hard time doing the job, if I don't understand something, or if I keep getting stuck, that is a big demoralizer. That makes me feel much less into the job. Maybe this isn’t a good place for me to succeed. I don’t want to do a job where I feel like I’m failing.”

She puts it very well for Gen Yers. These young employees feel frustrated at their inability to adequately learn a skill, perform a task, or get comfortable with a responsibility. Maybe they become weighed down by a particularly challenging project. That’s usually the beginning of a downward spiral for these midlevel performers. Often they decide to leave long before they tell you. As a result, the downward spiral spins out of control. By the time they leave, you might even think, “Good riddance!”

How do you stop that downward spiral? Start an upward spiral instead.

In these cases, the number one thing a manager can do is help the employee improve so he will start feeling better about the job and regain interest. Use that bright light of scrutiny to help the employee see what’s going wrong and how to make things go better. Break down the project, responsibility, task, or skill into small pieces. Guide and direct the employee in accomplishing one very small piece at a time. Instead of suffering the pain of failure, the employee will get a chance to bank one tiny success after another. In the process, that employee is likely to learn and grow, and feel increasingly competent. You’ll also put that employee in a much stronger position to earn more of the rewards he needs. Even more important, you’ll restore the employee’s hope about his or her future potential for advancement and success in this job and your company -- and greater earning potential. Gen Yers feel much better about a job when they feel they are winning as opposed to losing. The problem is you can’t make them feel they are winning just by telling them they are. You actually have to do the hard work of helping them start winning. That’s how you shift the momentum and turn a downward spiral into an upward spiral.