Facing a career decision? Puzzled by a co-worker’s point of view? Struggling with a specific workplace dilemma? Looking for ways to improving engagement, collaboration, or innovation within your organization? Wanting to learn more about something I said in one of my books?
I’ll do my best to offer some suggestions, if you “Ask Tammy.”
Q&A: Generation Y and the Economic Crisis
In the face of the growing economic crisis, what do we early-career workers need to do to make ourselves more indispensable to our organizations? Secondly, what impressions from our “teenage years” can help us to really fathom what’s going on? Or, what generation is in a better place than we are to understand this—who can we turn to with questions? Thanks,
I’m a strong believer in the “a good offense is the best defense” strategy for any generation in the workplace today. That is, do the very best work you can. A few specifics for early-career workers:
* Do your assigned task thoroughly and well, before you volunteer to get involved in other special projects. I know someone recently who was contributing in major ways to a number of very interesting special initiatives for her company, but when the time came for lay-offs, she wasn’t viewed as integral to the core activities of the firm and was among the first to go.
* Help others. Look for ways to lighten the load for a colleague—quietly, perhaps with no attribution. Pitch in and word will get around that you are a solid team player.
* Stay heads up on trends and issues potentially affecting the business. Bring new ideas to the table. (But avoid being a “Debbie Downer”—no one wants to work with someone who only talks about problems—bring solutions and ideas, as well.)
In many ways, Gen Y is, by temperament and habit, very well suited to the rhythm of this economy. Your ability to “go with the flow,” to coordinate in the moment, rather than rely on long-term schedules and carefully constructed plans, are all good philosophical traits to bring to an unpredictable situation. Use them to your advantage. This is a great time to stay flexible, think near-term (“what can I do for the next year that is challenging,” rather than “how do I launch the long-term career of my dreams,” for example).
What you lack is experience navigating through a tough economic patch. Only the Boomers have had a significant dose of that—and most Boomer managers have a bag of tricks that are helpful at a time like this. Some of my favorites: focus on cash (as a metric and as an operational priority) and favor agility over low cost (i.e., rent instead of buy).
Good luck—your generation has a lot to contribute to helping firms through this tough economy.
Filed under: Generation Y | Published: 12/04/08
Q&A: Generational ROI
In your opinion, which of the generational cohorts produces the greatest ROI for large enterprises? I know that’s tough and there probably isn’t a perfect answer, but I’m curious what your response will be… Nice new site!
That is a great question . . . and I don’t have a quantitative answer. I’d love to do some research to pin that down some day.
Here are some thoughts: First, we’d have to agree on ways to judge “return” for various activities. What’s the return on an executive who guides others vs. a call center rep who handles direct customer inquiries, for example? The theoretical answer would be that, in a perfect world, we pay people commensurate with their contribution, meaning that the “return” from each individual would be equal to the “investment” we make in them. If you believe this, then the ROI for everyone would be the same.
But, at a generational level, I do think the overall contributions have been a bit different. There’s no doubt the Boomers have been a highly “productive” generation—Boomers were in leadership roles when we saw some of the most significant increases in productivity rates in the U.S. economy, as the technology was first substituted for highly labor-intensive tasks. Boomers have also put an extraordinary amount of time into work—leading the increase in hours worked. So, on a time-based return for the company’s compensation investment, Boomers have been a great deal.
X’ers arguably have worked smarter—and have been more concerned about balancing the time spent at work with that spent with family. In that sense—including time as one of the investments—I’d have to give them the nod over Boomers. And, in another possible generational measure of contribution, X’ers founded many of our most innovative and successful (and highest market value) companies today—including Google, YouTube, Amazon, and Wikipedia.
Y’s are just getting started. There is anecdotal evidence that they are able to perform many tasks faster than any generation yet. Managers tell me stories of hiring a Gen Y for a 10 week internship and running out of work for them to do after only 3 weeks, for example, because they are so speedy. The jury is still out on this, but Y’s may up the ante on ROI still further.
Thanks for asking such a provocative question.
Filed under: Comparisons Among the Generations | Published: 12/04/08
Q&A: Appropriate Approaches to Self Promotion
I’ve just been enjoying reading various articles that you have written on the web. You give some very helpful advice.
I have a question that I hope that you can offer me some advice/guidance on:
• If I receive some praise and thanks for my contribution on a project at work either by a customer or a manager in a different department, how can I let my own manager (or people with influence) know without appearing as boasting?
• Do I do it in a different way depending on if I receive an email or am told it in person?
• Do I do it myself or do I try and get that person to talk to/email my manager?
Thank you for your time,
Thanks very much for your note—I’m delighted that you’ve found the posts useful!
Your question is great, because too few people (especially women, I’m afraid) fail to think this through.
Here’s the bottom line: it is completely normal, acceptable and desirable to pass along this type of feedback to your manager and, depending on its significance, to others with influence. It is not boasting.
Here are some guidelines:
1. Email is a good way to pass along the info, whether you received it by email or orally. If the latter, you should write a brief email, along the lines of “I heard from Joe today that he was really pleased with the results of the analysis.” If you have details, I’d add one or two sentences, like: “He found the customer interviews particularly useful.”
2. Keep it brief and matter of fact. Don’t write a long cover email detailing how hard you worked, the sacrifices you made, etc.
3. It is okay to show some emotion. “I was so happy to get the attached feedback from Joe!”
4. Mention others who were involved, emphasizing their contributions. “The team really did a great job on this one.” “Kary really came through with some great insights!”
5. If its important feedback on an important issue or project, its fine to send your note to a broad group. If its routine, day-to-day feedback, I’d confine it to my direct boss.
6. Don’t hide the bad news. If you get some negative feedback (particularly from a customer), you should send your boss a quick, matter-of-fact note, including the remedial steps you have taken. “I heard from Ron that he was not satisfied with the response time. I’ve spoken with him and committed to putting two people on the next project.”
In business, you have to be a good self-advocate. It’s not like school where someone will eventually see the test results and realize how good you are. The onus is on you to communicate your accomplishments in ways that are professional, informative, and fair.
Good luck, Katrina. Thanks again for writing.
Filed under: Interactions with Your Manager | Published: 10/17/08
Q&A: What’s the First Step?
As a manager looking to strengthen our talent strategies, what one thing would you do first?
Get good at project-based work. Figure out how to use contractors, how to let employees work 3 months on and 3 off. Our research shows that that’s in more demand than, say, a 4-day week. And both young and old—over 55 and under 35—are demanding it. Make sure you’re able to make the smartest use of people who want to work differently—because there’s no escaping that many are going to work differently.
Filed under: Talent Management Approaches | Published: 10/17/08
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