Book Review: “Not Everyone Gets a Trophy: How to Manage Generation Y” by Bruce Tulgan

This is a book review that was previously discussed on our College Union & Activities Discussion podcast (@CUADpodcast) on June 5, 2013

One of the books I’ve had on the list to review on this podcast was also reviewed in this month’s ACUI Bulletin. It’s called “Not Everyone Gets a Trophy: How to Manage Generation Y” by Bruce Tulgan.

A Generation X’er myself, I’ve always been interested in the differences between generations and saw first hand the difference in the experiences I had in school vs. my brother who is four years younger than me. My mother as a middle school and high school teacher also saw the differences in the way students were rewarded differently. Everyone did start getting trophies for doing…not much.

This books starts off by going through 10 Myths and Realities regarding Generation Y. Here’s an example:

Myth #4: They want the top job on day one.
Reality: They have no interest in taking their time to “get a feel for the place.” They want to hit the ground running on day one. They want to identify problems that nobody else has identified, solve problems that nobody else has solved, make existing things better, invent new things. They want to make an impact.”

I see this. I know many younger professionals that don’t care about what’s been done before and rush right to creating something they feel must be new. Sometimes the ideas are new, sometimes not. It can be frustrating as someone older to try and give feedback – because if you have to say something has been done before and didn’t work etc. you know it’s not going to go over well. I think fully expressing that as a supervisor you want to invent new things, try new things – but at the same time you know the student body or the culture etc. is important.

Other topics in the book were “Tricks to Recruiting and Hiring the Best Gen Y Employees” which was interesting. 8 different things to remember such as making sure they understand the Marketable Skills they will gain from working with you. Access to decision makers. Gen Y employees like knowing that they can always have access to the person making the decisions. As someone who really really respects those boundaries, I understand that desire but it’s so different than my generation when they just expect that from the get go.
I’ve worked with younger co-workers and I see how they want to know why they can’t just go to the Vice President and ask him questions directly. So I’m all like that’s like two levels above your pay grade, but that’s not a reason to them.

There’s a ton more in the book, but I also wanted to share that the author feels that Gen Y employees need a little “In Loco Parentis” Management. Now as someone who has worked at a high school art school and a Catholic Private University, this is concept is not new to me, but using this as supervisor is. So this may be a rethinking supervision type idea:

The author says to “Take over the tutoring aspects of the parental role in the workplace without taking over the emotional part (at least mostly)”. What that means:

1. Show them you care.
2. Give them boundaries and structure.
3. Help them keep score.
4. Negotiate special rewards in very small increments.

Now these items are so vastly different from what I need as an employee that I whole heartedly have taken these items into consideration. I supervise someone now who is very used to my style so I haven’t had to change a lot with him, but I do have Graduate Interns who are going into the Student Affairs field, so I take that responsibility very seriously.

Give them boundaries. “If you want to give Gen Yers more freedom at work, the biggest favor you can do for them is establish clear boundaries and give them a structure within which they can function with some autonomy.”

Keeping score is like helping employees to see how far they’ve come and what they’ve learned during the process and rewards is basically always remembering to reward your people and find small ways (not like like doo dads, but real rewards if possible) to recognize them.

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