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Managing Millennials: “I’m Tired of Mediating The Office Drama”

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According to a 2018 survey by Deloitte, “Attracting and retaining millennials and Gen Z respondents begins with financial rewards and workplace culture”.
But what if the culture between a sub-team of millennials is impacting the wider business? A Daily Slog reader asks for help in managing a team who are more interested in dramas than deadlines.

Dear Daily Slog,

“I manage a team of people who are largely in their 20’s. The company is a start-up and we do try to promote a fun culture but at times I struggle with keeping a young and boisterous team focused on the work at hand.”

“There are constantly simmering drama’s (usually around in-office relationships and stories of the night before). I pretend that I am oblivious to all of this of course. How can I maintain a semblance of order and professionalism without coming across as a school teacher?”

 

Dear Reader,

Millennials work in a different manner to what previous generations are used to, they have grown up in a culture of immediacy, surrounded by stimuli. Because of this they can be impatient, they are hungry for new experiences, and they thrive on short-term goals with visible results.

They want to share everything with everyone and they are looking to receive constant recognition for what they do, which has led them to be exceptionally good at self-promotion – hence the multiple social media platforms.

They don’t fear change, they are looking for a meaning beyond money in their career and they display a lack of respect for typical structures of authority, such as a hierarchical company structure.

So I can certainly feel your pain when trying to impose some order, professionalism and structure within your team, without coming across as a school teacher.

 

By not addressing the issue, you are allowing it to happen and reinforcing a culture of gossip and drama.

 

Unfortunately however, ignoring the gossip and the drama is only serving to promote this type of disruptive behaviour, unwittingly creating a workplace culture that appears as if it is completely acceptable to sit around and gossip.

By not addressing the issue, you are allowing it to happen and reinforcing a culture of gossip and drama. As with all behaviour, we are not always aware that what we are doing is wrong or not acceptable within the culture that we are in.

If we are not told what we are doing is not acceptable, then how do we know that it’s not? You may think that it’s common sense, but as you may have noticed as a manager, common sense is not all that common!

 

Millennials need their leaders to be approachable, to encourage and guide them rather than being strict, imposing and authoritarian.

 

Millennials have been brought up in a much more relaxed and open parental and schooling system where they were ‘allowed’ to do much more than previous generations were. They typically don’t respond well to rigid rules and the person imposing them.

However, they still need to be guided and of course “managed”. It’s the way in which it’s done and by whom that’s important; they need their leaders to be approachable, to encourage and guide them rather than being strict, imposing and authoritarian.

Managers therefore should look to be an approachable leader who encourages and guides their staff. They must earn the respect of their staff through being professional, knowledgeable in their field, good at their job and consistently setting reasonable boundaries rather than asserting their authority just because they’re in a higher ranked position.

 

You need to set reasonable boundaries with the relevant staff members, but this can be done in a constructive, collaborative way.

 

I would advise that you use a coaching approach to manage the gossip and drama. You need to provide feedback to the relevant staff members and you need to set reasonable boundaries with them, but this can be done in a constructive, collaborative way by taking this approach.

Sit down with each of your staff members individually and point out that you’ve noticed the gossiping and chatter about personal issues has got a little out of hand. Ask questions which probe the staff member to reflect on their behaviour and the impact it’s having on the rest of the staff and work productivity.

 

Make sure that you talk to all the offenders and not just one person – and be consistent in your approach.

 

Encourage them to talk about personal issues at break time or lunch time rather than throughout the day. Ask them to set a goal in relation to reducing or abstaining from gossip while they’re meant to be working – let them come up with the goal and ask them to write it down.

Arrange to meet with them again in a month to review whether they have been successful at achieving their goal and reducing the amount of gossip in the workplace. Make sure that you talk to all the offenders and not just one person – and be consistent in your approach.

In addition to this, you could help to tackle the issue by mixing up the seating arrangements which will encourage new relationships within the team.

 

Always remember that you shouldn’t take part in the gossip or the drama – this can completely ruin your credibility as their manager.

 

Always remember that you shouldn’t take part in the gossip or the drama – this can completely ruin your credibility as their manager. While you want to be an approachable manager, you still need to maintain their respect and have reasonable boundaries set between you and your staff.

When you overhear them gossiping or dramatising personal events or issues, don’t ignore it, be open and confront it. Remind them of your recent conversation with them and outline to them that this is an example of what you were referring to. This can be done in a calm and breezy manner rather having an authoritarian tone.

Setting boundaries, being consistent and taking a collaborative, coaching approach is the key – all millennials are acutely aware of personal boundaries and so should accept that these are incumbent in the workplace too. The best of luck with it!

 

Other great articles from Jennifer Davies:

What is the best way to manage someone out of a company?

Can you really trust your HR department? 

About the Author

Jennifer Davies is a HR Consultant, Career Coach & Owner of Captured HR Consultancy based in Cork, Ireland. For more information on her services visit www.CapturedHR.ie

Jennifer Davies Captured HR

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