Why Millennials Need Tough Love Like Mother’s Milk

How to Motivate the Generation That Already Has Every Participation Trophy

So you’ve hired some millennials. You’ve managed to lure them off their air b’n’b couch, away from their artisan oatmeal food truck visions, and into an uber to come work for you. Good for you. But now, you actually have to work with the little hoodie-wearers. Suddenly, you find that every day is like that wedding you went to where the lumberjack’s son marries the Park Avenue daughter: awwwwwkward. How do you talk to each other? What do you have in common? How do you motivate a generation who already has every participation trophy? As a millennial myself, I can tell you the answer is, tough love.

Nix Praise to Stop Raising the Corporate America Equivalent of King Joffrey

I know, I know, I know.  This is paradoxical to every piece of advice you’ve ever heard about millennials being special snowflake praise hounds. You think that millennials thrive on affirmation, but the truth is, we actually don’t. Like the ultimate medeival millennial, Game of Thrones King Joffrey (ok, he wasn’t born after 1982, but let’s face it, he was ahead of his time), an excess of praise has left the millennial generation feeling vapid, selfish, silly, and most importantly, bored to death of ourselves. Save us before we trade our ear buds and hoodies for a cross bow and a crown.

Tough love would have helped that little jerk from HBO, and it can help today’s workplace millennials too. The next time a millennial comes sidling up whining about some workplace issue, give them a much-needed reality check.

Here’s how you do it.

Millennial Tough Love Scripts 

Example 1:

They say: “I am working so hard; I’m exhausted and I’ve barely had time to eat my kimchee ramen.”

You say, “I guess that’s why they call it a job.”

Example 2:

They say: “I have so many projects; you would not believe how buried I am.”

You say, “If you’re that busy; please don’t let me keep you.”

Example 3:

They say: “I worked so hard on that client presentation and not one person said thank you. Not one!”

You say: “Your paycheck is the thank you.”

Harsh? Maybe. Effective? Definitely. However, if you’re too scared to go full gangster in your next millennial conversation (after all, you don’t want a call from the employee’s parents, grandparents and Soul Cycle Instructor) a softer approach that still gets the job done is to go the data-driven route.  Here’s how that could look:

Data-Driven Millennial Tough Love Scripts

Example 1:

They say: “I have been coming to work every day for a year and have been mostly on time, and I still haven’t gotten a raise.”

You say: “Let me share some salary data with you. As you can see, you were brought in at the top of the range for your position, so you are actually very well paid for your industry. To expect a raise now would be unrealistic.”

Example 2:

They say: “I want to be promoted right now. I’m too good for Call Center Rep. I read statistics off my sales script, so I should be Vice President of Data Science.”

You say: “Well, let’s look at the job description disparity between Vice President and your current job. According to this description, you will need to get a Master’s Degree, hands-on expertise in Tableau and SQL, and ten years doing field work in a remote area. Right now, you have a GED and the only technology you use is SnapChat. However, you get great customer feedback, so why don’t we talk about a career path toward Customer Service Specialist?”

Trust me when I say, this will work. Having lived a life devoid of consequences, logic, and negative feedback of any kind, millennials will find your frank approach to be a breath of fresh air. Once you give it to them straight, they will be eating out of your hand. If not, there’s always another participation trophy.

Have you used data to have those tough love conversations? We want to hear from you! Let us know in the comments below.

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