Coddled by close-hovering helicopter parents, Generation Y (of which I'm a proud member) is incapable of taking initiative. (This very post was "suggested" by Owen Thomas, yet I get to take all the credit.) We never had to struggle up multiple hills, in the snow, to get to school, so we lack any true sense of accomplishment. To help managers deal with our overweening self-importance, BusinessWeek has come up with a bullet-pointed Generation Y workplace survival guide. No, it doesn't include anything helpful, like how to use Facebook or Twitter as management tools. It does suggest exactly the kind of boss behavior Gen Y will see right through, once we learn to recognize it. So how do you know if your boss is trying to game you into productivity? Here are the signs:
He wants to be your mentor: Has your boss taken a sudden interest in your ambitions, dreams, hopes, and goals? That's not old-fashioned small talk. He's trying to figure out what he can do to fabricate the illusion of fufillment so you might actually get some work done.
- He's stopped ordering you around: Instead of barking commands like an angry sea captain, your boss will start explaining why filing those TPS reports will save the company — and stop global warming, blah blah blah. He's hoping that, under the delusion that all will fall apart without you, you'll take them on as a moral obligation.
- He sets up a suggestion box: We hate being told what to do. Our parents had more sense than that: Our therapists told them confrontation might forever warp our fragile psyches. If your boss starts soliciting suggestions, watch out: If you're not careful, he'll brainwash you into thinking it was your idea to do the work in the first place.
- He invites you out to happy hours: He's trying to show that, hey, just because he's a stodgy old guy, he can be your friend too. It's a ploy. He's hoping these staged social interactions will boost your self-esteem, and, in the end, your output.
If you notice any of these warning signs, it's time to jump ship.
(Photo by Steve McFarland)