Monday, August 12, 2013

What 20-year olds don't get

I don't like generalizations, especially when it comes to leadership situations. Stereotypes and generalizations may be an OK way to say how a group at large looks, but the reality is that everyone is an individual, and as a leader you work with individuals, not groups.

That being said, there is a lot of truth in this article from Forbes, called "20 Things 20-Year-Olds Don't Get."

My three favorites were right in a row:

Pick Up the Phone – Stop hiding behind your computer. Business gets done on the phone and in person.  It should be your first instinct, not last, to talk to a real person and source business opportunities.  And when the Internet goes down… stop looking so befuddled and don’t ask to go home.  Don’t be a pansy, pick up the phone.

Be the First In & Last to Leave ­– I give this advice to everyone starting a new job or still in the formative stages of their professional career.  You have more ground to make up than everyone else around you, and you do have something to prove.  There’s only one sure-fire way to get ahead, and that’s to work harder than all of your peers.

Don’t Wait to Be Told What to Do – You can’t have a sense of entitlement without a sense of responsibility.  You’ll never get ahead by waiting for someone to tell you what to do.  Saying “nobody asked me to do this” is a guaranteed recipe for failure.  Err on the side of doing too much, not too little.


  1. To a certain extent, the article could be inverted and called "What Old People Don't Get"... As a Millennial officer, I'm not a fan of the article, although it does make some good points.

    Concerning the phone, that's just not a device that young people use. Face to face, or email. Both phones and email lose a lot of the non-verbal communication, and for that reason, they both require practice to use well. Young purple are better at email, and worse at phones, them you are. Ask anyone in my office and you'll know the phone is a last resort for me; of much rather walk to the other end of the building. X90s are starting to help with this problem, fortunately.

    When it comes to First In, Last Out, you'll strike a nerve with every Millennial. Which is it? The paragraph says we should be the hardest working person, but it also says we should take the longest to do our work... That sounds like the laziest person to me. What's wrong with saying we should work hard and not be afraid to put in the hours when needed? Work life balance is important, and a boss that makes you stay late even if you have no work to do will have you running for the door. I had one and nearly left the Navy as a new LT.

    Your last favorite I can't argue. Great advice for anyone of any generation. I don't think that's generational advice as much as age... Young people require experience and confidence, which tends to come with time.

  2. @Jimmy, Looking at the definition of Millenial, it would include me in there, however, I'm not in my twenties, and I think this applies more for younger millenials.

    I see your point on the phone, but I have run into the exact problem the author describes. Our Outlook stopped working in the morning, and we had a meeting in the afternoon, so I asked one of my Petty Officers if all attendees had been notified. "I emailed them" was the response. The Chief jumped in before I did to get him on the phone, and no surprise, most had not received the email because they were having Outlook issues too.

    I'm certainly not against email...but it has it's place.

    I agree on your second point, but my beef is that I don't have people with nothing to do, I simply have no people at 1600 in most cases. I remember being onboard a submarine and staying until at least 1600 (in most cases 1700) to work on quals. My boss was one to require everyone to stick around for no reason...but as a young unqualified JO, I had every reason to stay.

    What I see now is that I have to establish office hours just to keep people that aren't completing their work and aren't qualified from leaving before 1600. My philosophy was always to ensure that my boss had everything from me before I left for the day, but it seems with people 5-8 years younger than me this isn't the case. I have a family, and work-life balance is important, but when a subordinate bugs out on me and I'm stuck at the office late finishing his or her work, "laziness" and not "work-life balance" is what goes through my head.

  3. Oh man, so much material on point #2 that I might have to go pontificate at my own blog. I definitely feel you when it comes to people leaving with work incomplete, but there's also a special place in hell for people who stay late just to be seen staying late-- it breeds a terrible work culture and penalizes efficiency. I think one cure is to give your boss a courtesy "check out" before leaving for the day, but that's much more easily done voluntarily than it is to require of subordinates. Another key is to actually be productive when you're staying around just in case... if you're just wasting time, you end up wasting the time of others as well (and you clearly don't have enough to do).