Where do you draw the line with catering to new management styles for different generations of employees? Should you have to adapt to the preferences of a younger generation or should they be the ones adapting? We’ve all read articles and listened to presentations about how to manage millennials and how their expectations for work-life balance are different from previous generations. We’ve even covered the topic in Farm Equipment. Is it OK to tell an employee to grow up? Recently a dealer shared a story with our associate editor James DeGraff and me about an issue with a millennial employee caused both of our jaws to drop. Keep in mind, we both fall into the category of “millennial” (even if I don’t like to admit it).
Here’s the story. A newer employee at the dealership, who is around 20 years old, isn’t meeting expectations. The manager is trying to decide if he should be pulled from an apprenticeship program scheduled to start this coming fall. “He’s repeating mistakes consistently, so we’re very concerned about him. He’s a nice guy. He’s a decent, able guy, but’s he’s not getting it,” the dealer says.
The manager and the employee had a meeting to discuss the problem and plan to have another meeting. So far, nothing seems that jaw dropping. Then he told us the young man’s dad was going to have to be at the second meeting. While James and I were trying to lift our jaws from the floor, the dealer described how the father is a nice well-educated man, a business person in the community but also says how the whole management team was dumbfounded when they heard this. James and I both agreed we’d be mortified if our parents had to be part of a meeting with our boss. I also struggled with the idea that any parent of an adult (don’t forget we’re talking about adults here) would be willing to leave their own busy work day to attend to a problem at their son or daughter’s work.
Uninterested in setting a precedent for this sort of behavior, the dealer suggested to the manager to not have the meeting with the father but instead write out a report acknowledging the problem. “That’s what we do at another level. If there was some problem, we’d sit the employee down and say, ‘Here’s the thing we need to correct. This is the deal. This is what we expect.’ And then if nothing changes in a week or however long was set, we’d sit down again but this time with a written report of the situation that the employee needs to sign,” the dealer explained. So, rather than have the second meeting the manager is going to write up a report on the initial meeting and have the employee sign it. He can then take it home and share it with his father if he wants to.
Now, I think this is probably an extreme case and hopefully not the future of how dealerships will need to operate. I think the dealer made the right decision not to hold the meeting, but it’s crazy that he even needed to have a conversation about it. While some of the management suggestions for dealing with millennials (acknowledging their work, taking a personal interest in them and giving them some work-life balance) seem totally reasonable, calling in dad to the office is out of line. No one (owner, manager, employee or parent) should allow that to happen. From one millennial to another, it’s time to grow up.