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If you are Under 38 or Think “Young” in the Workplace, You May Be Too Nicey-Nice to Give Honest Feed

Updated: Nov 3, 2020

If you identify as Millennial, Gen Z, or just feel you relate better to “younger” co-workers, you may be in for a surprise as you are promoted or given more responsibility. Especially if you suddenly have management responsibilities, you may be wondering why things aren’t going smoothly and unhappy campers are popping into your formerly calm world of work.

So polite, I’m impressed… In my coaching role and in casual conversations with many smart young professionals who share their workplace experiences, I notice how nice, kind, and polite they seem when they tell me how they are trying to handle interpersonal challenges. I often compliment them on their politeness as I remember my Baby Boomer scrappiness in the face of differences of opinion.

While I am the beneficiary of much of this politeness and respect as I talk to younger workers, I have slowly begun to correlate their difficulty giving honest feedback with too much nicey-nice.

Technology-enabled avoidance Generational forces have created a different environment at work and in personal lives. Technology hugely insulates people from face-to-face conversations, to the point that most huge and important negotiations or financial deals are conducted face to face. Online discourse can be good, especially when aided by video-enabled Skype or Zoom.  But, the desire to protect oneself from written comments—in text, email, or popular communication apps—triggers our fears of being misunderstood.  And giving feedback is probably the most avoided topic of all.

Love of calm, happy workplaces There also seem to be an expectation today (some will see as idealistic) of calm, positive, fun work environments and leaders strive to create such cultures to attract the best and brightest team members. Such happy workplaces are usually thought to stay affirming and complimentary. This goal may fall short, however, when people aren’t coached and developed to achieve greater goals and prepare for higher level roles.

People need feedback to learn and grow But in an environment devoid of feedback to grow on—where leaders are tiptoeing around words they fear would discourage their teams—people are kept in the dark about how they can truly get ahead. Leaders may simply bypass promotions of people who need to grow some new skills. And in the end that is discouraging. The best young people will leave and go somewhere that takes them more seriously and coaches them honestly.

Think about it! How can you be even more “nice” to your employees? Give frequent, honest, helpful feedback.

“A concise and effective tool… It provides context, inspiration, and great actionable content.”

— Mark Holzbach, Creative and Tech Community Connector, Co-Founder, Zebra Imaging

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