How to Adjust to Your Young, New Co-Workers

US News

If your office is like many around the country at this time of year, it might have had an influx of recent graduates pursuing their first post-college jobs -- who are now working alongside you as co-workers. Parts of this might be great: you have someone to delegate work to, and they can explain to you who Iggy Azalea is . But other parts might not be so great: they don't know how to use the copier; some of them call you "bro"; and like generations before them, they overshare about the questionable ways they spent their Friday nights.

But rather than grumpily eying them in staff meetings and turning yourself into the office curmudgeon, consider cutting them some slack. After all, we were all rookies once. Here are five tips for coexisting with your office's newest crop of young workers.

1. Avoid making generational stereotypes. You don't have to look far to find a wealth of stereotypes about millennials: they can't work independently; they want constant praise; they don't want to pay their dues; and they're obsessed with technology. The list goes on and on, just like it has for every generation before them. These stereotypes are far from being true across the board, and you will do no favors for your relationships with your new colleagues if you assume they are. Treat them like individuals rather than representatives of their generation.

2. Don't get frustrated if things that are obvious to you aren't obvious to them. It might seem like common sense to you that (of course) employees shouldn't play on their phones throughout meetings. And it may be a no-brainer to you that they should speak up if they don't have enough work to do. But these kinds of things aren't always obvious to workplace newbies. It can be easy to think, "Well, I would have known that when I was just starting out" -- and maybe you would have. But your new co-workers might come from backgrounds where they weren't taught the same norms that you were, so give them the benefit of the doubt at first. That doesn't mean you should give bad behavior a pass, but it does mean it would be kind to patiently explain expectations that will help them succeed.

3. Be very clear when assigning work. If you're working on a project with a less experienced worker, be as explicit as possible about what a successful outcome should (and shouldn't) look like. Also, detail any constraints that need to be taken into account, resources they might use, who needs to be consulted, deadlines and other pieces of the work that you might normally take for granted. Spending a few extra minutes to make explicit the pieces that feel implicit to you will likely pay off in better outcomes (and ultimately save you time in the long run).

4. Don't mother them. Age differences can bring out weird behavior in people. But just like you probably don't want younger co-workers relating to you like their parents, they don't want you to try to parent them. That means you should cool it with any unsolicited advice about their personal lives or whether they're eating healthily enough. While behaving maternally or paternally toward younger co-workers no doubt comes from a kind place, it's undermining to young professionals and their abilities to be taken seriously at work.

5. Mentor people when you're willing to. Think back to when you were just starting out -- there was probably a small number of people who were especially helpful to you. Consider paying it forward now, by helping your new co-workers acclimate to office life. Take them out to lunch, make yourself available for questions, and generally be a resource and someone they can bounce things off of. It can be enormously fulfilling to watch someone you've mentored blossom under your guidance and go on to great things. (And they might even be hiring someday.)

Alison Green writes the popular Ask a Manager blog, where she dispenses advice on career, job search and management issues. She's the author of "How to Get a Job: Secrets of a Hiring Manager," co-author of "Managing to Change the World: The Nonprofit Manager's Guide to Getting Results" and the former chief of staff of a successful nonprofit organization, where she oversaw day-to-day staff management.



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