Career Q&A: Dealing with Job Insecurity During Coronavirus, Tips for Managing Remote Workers, Millennial “Common Sense” and Creating a Culture of Apprenticeship

Welcome to the Monthly Work Remix, where I answer career and workplace questions submitted by professionals like you. Every month, I’ll adapt episodes of my brand new podcast, The Work Remix, into a reader-friendly advice column.

Click the links below to stream the individual episodes and hear my answers in greater detail. Note that some of these episodes were recorded before the Coronavirus pandemic spread widely, so you’ll find a combination of episodes focused on the current situation and some that are more evergreen.

Episode 6 – Millennial Loving Boomer Wants Gen Xer Boss to Respect Millennial Coworkers

Episode 7 – How to Teach Interpersonal Skills to Millennial Employees

Episode 8 – What Should I Do If I Think I Am Going to Lose My Job?

Episode 9 – I Am Managing People Remotely for the First Time Because of Coronavirus. Where Do I Even Begin?

Millennial Loving Boomer Wants Gen Xer Boss to Respect Millennial Coworkers

I’m a Baby Boomer, supervised by a Gen Xer. We have several Millennials on staff and my supervisor refers to them as “entitled” and “lazy,” but I believe they just need better leadership. How do I respectfully help my Gen X boss to see that? 

The first step I recommend here is to suggest a mindset shift with your boss. The shift will involve moving from a fixed mindset to what psychologist Carol Dweck calls a growth mindset. A growth mindset involves believing that anything is changeable and that you can improve in any area. 

Growth involves adding just one word. That word is “yet” – for example: “I’m just not good at math yet.” 

A fixed mindset, on the other hand, says, “I’m just not good at math.” Case closed—no potential for change.

So, if your boss says, “This Millennial doesn’t communicate professionally,” you might tactfully suggest shifting your boss’s mindset to consider that “This Millennial doesn’t communicate professionally yet.” 

The second step is to define what your boss means by “communicate professionally.” What are the communication styles or work ethic strategies that define success to your boss? Ask your boss to be more specific and explicit.

Then, instead of your boss telling an employee, “You’re lazy,” he or she can say, “I’d like you to arrive before 9:00 am so that we’re ready to serve our customers.” Instead of saying, “Your writing is messy,” he or she can say, “I’d like you to copy edit every document before you hand it to me.” 

Once you’re very clear on your boss’s processes and outcomes, you can explain them to your Millennial mentees. Provide examples and say, “Here are the days when things went well, or here are the documents that really demonstrate the professionalism that we’re looking for.” 

Baby Boomer Wonders How to Teach Interpersonal Skills to Millennial Employees

I’m a real estate agent and I’ve been in the business for nearly 30 years. I just hired two Millennials to my team. They’re savvy with software and technology, which is great for marketing. 

However, success in our industry also depends on relationship development, sales and an openness to ongoing personal and professional development. My new hires are new to the industry, and I want to mentor them and have them learn from me. But to me, they act like they know it all and aren’t open to learning. 

How can I help create a relationship with them where we learn from each other and become stronger as a business?

The first step in creating a strong, mutually beneficial relationship with your millennial employees is to make sure they know you truly value their technical work. When they finish a project, let them know they did a good job. 

I never advocate giving trophies for participation or praising mediocre work, but I strongly advocate for praising good work, acknowledging contributions and making people feel that their work is valued. Everyone wants to feel that their work matters. (Note that this is especially important during the current crisis when people are working remotely and might feel lonely or disconnected from leaders and colleagues.)

You might agree to offer more praise, but still be thinking, “Ok, Lindsey, empathy is all well and good, but I still have to get these kids talking to my clients. How do I do that?” 

I recommend going back to the most old fashioned way of training someone how to do something. I’m talking about apprenticeship. Show your employees how to interact with clients and sell and develop professionally. Invite them to watch you during client meetings (or Zoom calls right now) or listen in on more conference calls. 

Once they’ve observed for a while, give your Millennial employees the autonomy to apply what they’ve learned from you in their own unique styles. For example, have them make phone calls and follow up with interested buyers. You might listen in on some of these calls to offer feedback and encouragement.

I was working with a law firm recently and one of the senior partners was complaining that none of the junior lawyers could write well. He was ranting and raving about the decline in writing talent and what a disaster it was for the profession of law. 

“Well,” I said, “how are you managing this? How are you training them?” 

And he said, “I tell them to write better.” 

This feedback is not effective advice for a generation that was raised with a lot of adult supervision and an internet full of YouTube tutorial videos! A few words of guidance just won’t cut it (if you can call “write better” guidance at all). 

My advice to you is to demonstrate and model the human-centered behaviors and skills you want your younger employees to embody. Then combine that with praise for the technical areas in which they more naturally excel. 

I have faith that your Millennials will begin to contribute to the growth of your business through relationships and sales. Not only that, they will also become excited to learn even more from your expertise. 

Worried Gen X Employee Wonders “What Should I Do If I Think I Am Going to Lose My Job Because of the Coronavirus?”

Hi Lindsey, I’m feeling pretty anxious about job security right now. I already know many friends who have lost their jobs because of the virus. Some were in the food and beverage industry, which got hit first, but I see layoffs creeping into every sector and industry.

What should I do if I think I am going to lose my job?

This week, of course, everyone’s thoughts are consumed by the Coronavirus pandemic. It has fundamentally changed the way all live and work.

First and foremost, I hope that you and your loved ones are healthy and safe. I am here in New York City, which is almost completely shut down – a situation I NEVER could have pictured.

In general, my advice is to control the things you can control so that you can position yourself as well as possible if and when you do lose your current job. Even if you’re still employed while reading this, it doesn’t hurt to prepare for potentially bad news.

So, what can you do to set yourself up for a successful job search? Here are six tips:

  1. Update and improve your resume and consider having slightly different resumes for different potential positions.
  2. Update and improve your LinkedIn profile.
  3. Start to look at job postings on LinkedIn, industry-specific websites and local sources like Craigslist and local news sites.
  4. Take an online course to improve your current skill set on a topic such as Excel, Salesforce, Slack, cold calling or business writing.
  5. Check in with your college career service center or NACE (National Association of Colleges and Employers) for virtual services like online interview prep, resume writing, LinkedIn profile reviews and job search seminars. These are often available no matter how long ago you graduated.
  6. Consider alternatives to full-time employment like part-time work and freelance work.

Finally, do just a little bit every day. Don’t do everything at once. Send an email, update a section of your LinkedIn profile, submit one job application or take a free LinkedIn learning or Udemy class. And do your best to take it easy on yourself. Please don’t add unnecessary stress to an already stressful situation.

We will make it through this crisis. We saw jobs return after the 2008 recession. We will see jobs return after the Coronavirus pandemic subsides. I’m here to help you navigate these difficult times.

Manager of a Small Business Needs Crash Course in Managing People Remotely

I’ve been managing people for over 15 years. However, all of it happened in person. Thankfully, my team hasn’t been cut, but we are ordered to work from home due to the Coronavirus. Video calls and email updates feel strange to me. Plus, I don’t know if teammates even understand my instructions.

Can you give me advice on managing people remotely during the Coronavirus crisis?

Recently, I posted an article on Inc. that I wrote with my virtual assistant Eileen Coombes titled “23 Essential Tips for Working Remotely.” That article targeted all remote workers, but here, I’ll elaborate on some of those tips with a specific focus on managers.

First and foremost, remember to be visible. I recently spoke with an elementary school teacher who told me that the principal of her school spent the first week of the Coronavirus crisis hiding in her office before the government canceled classes. Teachers had a million questions and concerns, and the principal hid.

That is a perfect example of what NOT to do.

Even if you don’t have all the answers – which you won’t because nobody does right now – your job as a leader is to be visible, accessible and as helpful as you possibly can to the people you manage. Even when working at home, you can send daily update videos, call employees and offer clear directions in this confusing time.

Second, get in the habit of overcommunicating.

As my communications consultant Amanda Schumacher says, “If you question whether your colleague or employee will want to know something, share it.”

In other words, state your expectations. How can employees reach you? When can they reach you? And what are your expectations regarding productivity?

Try saying something like, “You can best reach me by email from 8am – 4pm EDT. Please send a weekly task update by noon on Fridays.” 

Third, be easy on yourself. For so many managers and teams, the move to a fully remote team happened pretty much overnight. Very few of us expected the virus to affect us this severely. This quick transition means you will get a lot wrong, and that is normal and to be expected. 

Be mindful that your employees are new to this as well, and they will get a lot wrong too. So, be patient and kind and forgiving, as much as possible. Kids will interrupt their parents during conference calls. Internet connections will be spotty. Expect it. Your goal should be progress, not perfection.

Share this post

hi, i'm lindsey!

Lindsey is a globally recognized career and workplace expert and the leading voice on generational diversity. She has spoken for more than 300 audiences including Google, Goldman Sachs, Estee Lauder, Stanford and Wharton. Lindsey is the author of four career and workplace advice books, and her insights have appeared in media outlets including The TODAY Show, CNBC, NPR, the Harvard Business Review and the Wall Street Journal.


Learn 25 Practical Ways to Manage Across Generations