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Why the Boston Bruins Banned the Word 'Rookie'

If you want young talent to fit in, don't treat them like a bunch of freshies.
SARAH CONNORS/FLICKR
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Hiring and training young talent presents an inherent challenge. Companies need to both bear with fresh employees as they get used to the working world while still making them feel like they're a crucial part of the team.

One strategy for dealing with this challenge comes courtesy of the National Hockey League's Boston Bruins: Tear down the rhetorical walls that separate your younger and more experienced employees. Captain Zdeno Chara has banned the use of the word "rookie" in the team's locker room, the Boston Globe reports.

For reasons that trace back some 20 years to his junior hockey days in Slovakia, Chara believes the word has no place in the hockey workplace. ... In the Bruins' locker room, newcomers are respectfully called "first-year players" or "younger guys" or "newer guys."

While younger players still need to work their way up the leadership ladder, Chara says he strives to make them feel like they're a welcome part of the team--not part of some strange subset within it--before they even lace up their skates.

So, how to shift this idea off the ice into the office? From a semantics perspective, it's easy enough. Take demeaning terms like "junior" out of titles. And if you have a reverse mentoring program, consider eliminating the term "reverse." Mentoring is mentoring.

But it's not just about semantics. The ban on "rookie" is just the literal representation of a Bruins locker room culture that fosters respect for its youngest players and emphasizes that they're part of the team like everybody else. From the Globe:

"I had a couple of bad experiences," the earnest, 6-foot-9-inch defenseman said of [his early career], where, he recalled, rookies often were forced to perform demeaning chores or rituals. "And I said, 'You know, if I ever am in a position to control that, I would totally change it, because it’s not fair.'"

It's worked for the Bruins, after all. Boston, which advanced to the Stanley Cup Finals last season and won the Cup in 2011, is in first place in the league's Eastern Conference this season, and three of its top-10 scorers are first- or second-year players.




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