Six Steps to Help Young Team Members Manage Expectations

As Generation Z moves from school to career, many of them enter their first job with different expectations than those of their employers.

They want to move up the organizational chart faster than their manager believes they are ready for that move. “More than 75% of Gen Z members believe they should be promoted in their first year on the job, according to a recent survey of 1,000 participants ages 18 to 23 by InsideOut Development, a workplace-coaching company. Employers see similar patterns among younger millennials in their late 20s and early 30s,” reports The Wall Street Journal.

But this makes sense if we weigh out their previous reality:

  • Most young adults have not worked a job in high school, so they have no work experience to help them understand precedents for promotions at a job.
  • Since they have no work experience—they only have school experience— they’re used to “moving up” every year: junior year is followed by senior year.
  • Most of their life has been a succession of regular promotions. Think video game levels, club or school athletics, and extra-curricular activities.

Managing Expectations

This pattern has employers and supervisors scrambling to manage young team members’ expectations. It is imperative we remember a simple leadership principle: conflict occurs when there is a distance between expectations and reality. The conflict expands as this distance widens.

The Wall Street Journal states that managers don’t want to put off a young employee by “driving them out the door” because they can’t seem to agree on what’s realistic.

Six Steps You Can Take with Young Team Members

Here are some steps we are currently taking at Growing Leaders that might spark some good ideas for you:

1. Talk about the subject, don’t avoid it. I have found the issue doesn’t go away by trying to ignore it. Be up front; be transparent. Talk about specific reasons for slowing their pace down if you believe you must do so.

2. Carve out a step by step growth plan for team members. This year, we’re creating this growth plan for our leaders, and subsequently their teammates. People feel and perform better as they see a clear path toward promotion.

3. Incentivize growth. We are now offering bonuses (even when we can’t do automatic raises in compensation) to those who achieve goals. A goal and a reward should always go together, whether it’s financial or emotional rewards.

4. New titles and authority. When we can, we provide new titles and new levels of authority to challenge our team members with new mountains to climb. Even if they’re small achievements, they can be important.

5. Celebrate milestones. This fiscal year, we’ve celebrated work anniversaries, noting the team members who’ve been with us two to five years on the job. We also give shout outs to team members who help us reach collective goals.

6. Talk about crockpots and microwaves. This imagery is one of our Habitudes® in our book for new professionals. Most people’s careers should be viewed as a meal in a crockpot, or a slow cooker—not nuked in a microwave within minutes.

Building Hungry Employees

The other side of this coin is—managers must cultivate team members who are hungry to earn their right to move forward. The answer is not to simply give more money or positions because someone asks for them. The Wall Street Journal continues: “Young employees who push too hard risk derailing their careers by projecting a sense of entitlement. Alex Klein, a vice president and recruiter at VaynerMedia, an 800-employee global agency based in New York, says new recruits are constantly questioning him about promotion opportunities. Many also ask to be considered for a raise earlier than the agency’s customary timetable. ‘Those are great questions to ask. I want to hire people who want to grow,’ Mr. Klein says. ‘But you also need to leave the employer with the impression that you want to earn it.’”

Both leaders and team members must be hungry and ready.

Order Now: Habitudes for New Professionals: The Art of Launching Your Career

The Art of Launching Your Career helps your young employees:

  • Take initiative and set the pace for other teammates
  • Stay creative, even when a supervisor doesn’t embrace their ideas
  • Overcome a sense of entitlement towards tasks that seem “beneath them”
  • Persevere in a career when it may move slower than they wish
  • Trust their supervisor, even when they don’t completely agree with an objective

Six Steps to Help Young Team Members Manage Expectations