Like a boss

Joey Garcia

I manage a small department of six employees, all of whom are in their 20s. Productivity is good, but there is one consistent problem: attention. Why do 20-somethings need so much? They want feedback on everything they do. Don’t advise me to provide feedback during a staff meeting. It doesn’t help. I like my staff, but their neediness is annoying. I need specific suggestions that will not require me to be their counselor, parent or coach. Thanks.

As a manager, you must keep notes on your employees in preparation for annual reviews. Be certain to detail specific incidents that exhibit an employee’s fine work, your stated approval of that work and the employee’s continued solicitation of compliments. During the employee’s review, be clear that this behavior reveals either a worrisome insecurity or an inability to listen well. Ask the employee to decide on his or her own what the deeper issue is, and explain that it is behavior that prohibits personal success in the company and possibly in their career. Request that the employee become more self-aware and learn to stop his or her compulsion to acquire reassurance. Have this conversation in a structured way—without much explanation or embellishment so the employee confronts the bare bones. If you flesh out the issue too much, the employee will use that additional context to distract his or herself from taking responsibility.

If the employee-review process is calendared for late in the year, create a one-sheet self-evaluation form. It should be general enough to be useful for a variety of work projects typical in your company, yet specific enough to prompt true reflection. Include an emotional component that allows an employee to notice how he or she is feeling. Make the form simple (set answers that can be checked off) with a short write-in section at the end that recognizes the employee’s growing knowledge base (“What I learned from this task/project and would apply in the future is …”). At a staff meeting introduce the form and explain that it should be used at the completion of projects to self-manage. You can tweak the form as needed over time. Prior to the review period, employees can summarize the self-evaluations into a one-page personal assessment of strengths and areas of growth, and turn that summary into you as preparation for reviews.

Of course, it is also useful for you to reflect on whether your attitude, words or behavior inspires insecurity in others. That thought might be difficult to consider, and, yes, people are responsible for their own feelings. But if you intimidate others through the use of jarring humor or by setting inconsistent standards or favoritism, please change.

Why are so many middle-aged women bitter and angry? I work with middle-aged women who are mean, and no one calls them on it. But I also notice that in stores, coffee shops, etc. It’s the same thing. What’s up?

Midlife calls us to examine the choices we have made, and many people—men and women—realize they are not living fully. Instead of launching into the transformation necessary to be grounded in passion and purpose, many slog through their days, praying for retirement, and finding tidbits of what they call happiness by shopping, overeating and emotionally investing in the lives of characters on television shows. Other people struggle with painful health issues and feel cranky. Plus, many people at midlife have given up on the joy of sex, and may have little intimacy of any kind in their marriages or other relationships. The real issue, though, is for you to choose a different path. Take action now that brings you joy while contributing generously to improving life for the poorest among us. Make your midlife inspirational.

Meditation of the week

“If you don’t like something, change it. If you can’t change it, change your attitude,” wrote Maya Angelou. Have you accepted your power to transform the world?

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