By Dr. Daneen Skube
Tribune Media Services
Q. I supervise a number of younger workers. They seem to have grown an appendage for texting on their cell phones and have the attention span of a gnat. How do I motivate them to focus on their jobs?
A. If you want to motivate the younger generations to do their jobs, start by realizing the sins of their fathers are visited upon every corporate manager. Many people in the younger generation have been raised glued to video games, Game Boys, cell phones, computers and television. For some young workers, human interaction is almost a novel experience.
Many older managers are ready to rip their hair out over their frustration supervising a generation of workers they seem to have perennial Attention Deficit Disorder. Consider that you can bemoan a problem or you can recognize and solve a problem. If you pause your grumbling about how unfair it is that these kids were poorly raised, you'll have better success at training your younger workers to be productive.
Try following these steps:
1. During the interview process make your expectations crystal clear. Let the potential employee know that your job will involve leaving their cell phone inside their desk and the ability to focus for long periods on work that can be boring.
2. Once the employee is on board, set consequences for behavior you want the employee to avoid. For example, if you see text messaging while the employee is working you'll start by putting a letter in the file, then move to a day's suspension, then move to terminate. Make sure employees know what you expect.
3. Set up a reward system tailored to appeal to each employee's individual needs. You'll need to get to know workers enough to know that one adores extra training opportunities, another likes public praise, and a third will go the extra mile for time off.
Since you now have the insight that managers get to pick up where an employee's parents left off, you can use a critical parenting tool to "raise" good employees. Validate their feelings but set crystal clear consequences.
Next time an employee is texting away try saying, "Yes, I know that you prefer to stay in touch with your friends during the day and this job requires your full attention. Is this the right job for you?" Your employee than has the choice to stay and do the job you are paying him for or leave and let you hire someone who will do the work.
THE LAST WORD(S)
Q. Is there any way to get people to just do what they are told at work?
A. Not unless you also make it clear how what they are told will benefit them!
Interpersonal EDGE: Management Strategies for Generation Tech Obsessed
Daneen Skube, Ph.D., executive coach, trainer, therapist and speaker. You can contact Dr. Skube at www.interpersonaledge.com or 1420 NW Gilman Blvd., #2845, Issaquah, WA 98027. Sorry, no personal replies.
This column was printed in the November 21, 2010 - December 4, 2010 edition.