Note: Inc.'s Ask a 20-Something series offers sage advice for navigating all manner of workplace issues, from the perspective of a young employee.
When I was in my 20s, I worked hard, paid my dues, and earned my next spot up the ladder. But now, my young entry-level workers bristle when I ask them to do the hard work that I expect. How do I get them to understand that nobody can simply jump that line?
I've had a boss exactly like you. You want the younguns to get used to how the business world works. You might even be sincere in your desire to help them. And you're uniquely qualified to do it, because you've climbed the ladder yourself.
Here's the thing. The game has changed since you were in your 20s. Take a minute or two to forget pretty much everything you've come to believe in the last 40 years.
First, a lot of entry-level tasks, like updating spreadsheets, can be automated. Start by looking for those. If your employees have to spend an hour filling out TPS reports that a computer could do in 30 seconds, they have a right to be indignant.
Second, when you got started, you also probably had--let's be honest--a crappy entry-level job. You worked your way up or branched out through entrepreneurship until you could afford the life you wanted outside of work. It was a worthy model. Now, it's totally obsolete.
Fast-forward to 2019: The rewards don't seem attainable to me, or to anyone else I know. Young people famously can't afford houses, and it's not because we eat too much avocado toast. Student-loan debt in the U.S. is at an all-time high--$1.4 trillion, according to credit reporting agency Experian--and only growing. It's also, by the way, a direct impediment to the next generation of entrepreneurs.
I consider myself pretty financially responsible, and my student debt will be old enough to legally drink before I'm able to pay it all off. So, no, I'm not going to patiently endure needless grunt work while I wait my turn to tackle a real project. Why should I willingly make myself miserable when there's no guaranteed payoff?
Sure, you suffered through those aggravating tasks when you were in your 20s. That's what worked then. But you don't need to perpetuate the cycle. Free your young employees from the parts of their jobs that nobody likes. Give them responsibility. Let them fail. They'll grow, and help your business succeed. Plus, they'll actually enjoy the work--and it'll significantly help their long-term career and financial prospects. They won't forget it.
Some tasks can't be automated. I get that. So start pairing them with a set of more engaging responsibilities. If you have to give an employee an unpopular assignment, at least make sure he or she is also doing something more rewarding.
Otherwise, that employee will leave you for someone who "gets" it. I know this because every one of my friends who works for someone like you is actively looking for a new job or already planning to quit. Every single one.
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