Tell Us What Not to Do vs. What We Should Do

Do this. Do that. We Millennials have been told how to act, how to dress, how to speak since we were teens. Whether it’s a millennial thing or a “this happens to every 20 something” thing, the idea of telling these “kids” how to act does not reveal consequences but rather prompts rebellion and raises this question, “Why do I have to do it that way?”

Jeff Havens is a speaker, trainer, and author regularly on Fox Business News and has been featured in Business Week, the Wall Street Journal, CNBC, AOL, and dozens of other regional and national media outlets. I have witnessed Jeff in action at Ohio SHRM and I believe that saying the audience was engaged is an understatement.

Jeff’s speaking engagements, training sessions, and publications use humor in education and inform the audience of WHAT NOT TO DO and WHY. He makes learning about dress code, office and dining etiquette engaging and humorous. Jeff can tell you How to Get Fired, which might help you do the opposite and actually keep your job

A few books from the Jeff Havens collection and Big Pow! Enterprises.

A few books from the Jeff Havens collection and Big Pow! Enterprises.

Here are a few run on sentence vignettes of my experiences or stories I’ve heard during my almost quarter century of being on this earth describing how those my age have been told what to do.

Number One: There are dress codes at some public schools prohibiting students from wearing sweats basically decreeing, “No, do not wear sweat pants and try to be comfortable because you look like a schmuck and don’t reflect the affluent neighborhood and district we want to depict.” Because being comfortable and showing off your new Miami Heat 2013 NBA Championship hoodie would be a detriment to your experience as a student and is such an awful means of self-expression. Do you know how much more I want to wear that hoodie because of your “dress code”? A LOT.

Except if you know me… I clearly would not select that sports team but I’m trying to be non-bias by selecting a current event while still putting my bias into play so that I am not confused with being a front running sports fan.

Number Two: In college there was an hour of my life I will never get back to use for something much more valuable, such as watching a re-run of Grey’s Anatomy. I majored in Business Administration and rather than higher education teaching Millennials to deal with something such as rejection – we played around on Microsoft Office, learned how to write memos, worked on our resumes once a week to finagle “work experience” onto the page, and what else? Dining etiquette, yes sir or madam it was required for us future business leaders to attend this special session on how to eat and drink. I mean, who wouldn’t be jumping up and down to do that?

One, if you’re really interested in dining etiquette I am almost positive YouTube could do a fairly good job of telling you the salad fork is smaller than the dinner fork and picking up your bowl of soup to slurp the last bit of broth is inappropriate. Two, they TOLD me how I should conduct myself, which led me to ask… So if I happen to forget to turn my coffee cup over at the dinner table but, yet still decline coffee from the waiter/waitress, the person across the table from me will get up and leave?

Number Three: Speak eloquently, slow down, NEVER cross your arms, look me in the eye, and please give me your undivided attention. How many self-help or “business” books talk about how you SHOULD communicate? So what they’re telling me is if I model myself after a polished communicator, I’ll be on my way to success? What if I’m talking to a room of 20 something’s? What if I’m so polished it’s intimidating and I’m uptight and no one can relate to me?

In no way am I saying that I’m an endearing communicator but you can’t tell me that Blake Shelton’s Southern drawl doesn’t captivate you.

These are just three examples of how we are told how to act. But the younger generation entering the workforce might have some trouble with not only being told what to do but the real issue is being told what to do without understanding why. When you describe what not do to do, your why shines through. The why typically being, “I’d prefer to not act like a reckless hooligan.” If you happen to read Jeff’s books, he has a poetic and comedic means of leading you to the promise land of, “I never want to act like that.”

Please understand I do believe you need to be dressed appropriate for your environment, you need to be polite and aware when dining, and you need to understand how to be an effective communicator to your target audience. These are musts in the business environment. But might there a better way of getting this message to Millennials?

HR and Hiring Managers, show the consequence and the hilarity in that consequence. Show what not to do and you might find that the kids (and adults) you’re dealing with might listen this time. It’s not what you say but how you say it. Ask Jeff.

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2 comments

  1. Rob Aught

    I’ve managed millenials, I think a lot of it is much ado about nothing. They really are no different than any other generation entering the workforce and having to learn that the rules they are used to may no longer apply.

    In general it is difficult to throw a big book of rules at anyone and tell them “You must do this!” without being condescending. If there is any group out there being hit with plenty of condescending attitude it would be millenials. Generally, approaching them like fellow human beings and not treating them like bad puppies who need training has netted positive results. Yes, they are my employees, yes they have to follow my direction, no I am not somehow superior to them because of title, experience, or age.

    Really, anyone with a decent interest in mentoring should be working with these young adults as they enter the workforce. No one wants to be a mentor anymore and I think that’s the real problem. Mentoring them is a learning experience FOR THE MENTOR! I learned a ton from my recent college grads and it was a great experience for us both. Managers need to embrace the differences and quit resisting it so hard.

    After all, these ARE the future of your company.

    • interviewgeek

      Rob–

      Thank you for your thoughts! And I agree, teaching is the best way to learn. Millennials want to be mentored and hopefully they can teach their mentors like you mentioned, along with gaining a learning experience they would not otherwise have had if they just had a rule book thrown at them.

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