Leading from behind

Here’s a few quick tips for you Gen-Ys struggling to get ahead. Get your work peers to value your contribution. MICHAEL PHILLIPS

Michael Phillips

By Michael Phillips

Younger employees often find age a barrier to growth within an organisation. If you’re a younger manager responsible for elder colleagues there can be issues with asserting any authority. Likewise for all young employees looking to grow but finding they’re not taken seriously due to their age.

Surely not! You say. In a fast paced, MySpace, Gen-Y driven world, this cannot be happening.

But it is, and remains a major problem, particularly in businesses that are either long-established, very “corporate” or the public service. These places tend to hire on “time in service” rather than merit, and if you’re under 30 then good luck being taken seriously.

So, if this is your situation and you find you work hard, contribute greatly and are ripe for a promotion but getting nowhere, what do you do?

The simple answer, and one that goes through the mind daily for all people in this situation, is to quit. But before you write your resignation letter and run that “exit interview” speech through your head, it’s time to fight for your right to be taken seriously!

Lance Armstrong has been quoted as saying: “Pain is temporary. It may last a minute, or an hour, or a day, or a year, but eventually it will subside and something else will take its place. If I quit, however, it lasts forever.”

While we are not all riding up Les Alpes at break neck speeds, we can definitely take the same approach to our employment.

Here’s a few quick tips for you sub-30-somethings to get ahead and get your work peers to value your contribution:

The first and most important step is communication. Talk to your manager/boss etc and get an idea of how they feel you are travelling and what their plans are for you. Be honest and candid, but not arrogant. Tell them what’s troubling you and try to identify a “road map” for change.

Have a voice. This is hard for a lot of people, but to be seen, you must be heard. No need announcing your intentions over a loudspeaker, but voice your opinions, innovate and maintain your hard work.

You need to prove your worth. For example, if you weren’t around, how would the business cope? This is the message you need to get through to your manager.

Lastly, be realistic. You must honestly assess where you are at within your organisation. Most people will rate themselves higher than their true worth. The key is to sit down and identify your strengths and weaknesses. Then you should do your best to run with your strengths, and where possible have a team that can assist with your weaknesses.

Do your best to achieve your goals, but don’t take Lance too seriously. Employment is about learning from other people, self-worth, security and on-going challenges. If you enjoy your job, but are finding constraints, then get proactive. If you do your best and give yourself every chance of success, you will be duly rewarded. If you’re not, then your hard work is best served elsewhere.


Michael Phillips is a 29-year old CPA managing a business full of Gen-Ys. He’s the Commercial Manager of Cremorne Group which wholesales and retail mens and womens apparel, including the Tommy Hilfiger, Blazer and Perri Cutten brands. He offers his experience as a pioneering Gen-Y managing Gen-Ys, covering issues such as how to recruit, retain and get the most out of Gen-Y – the notoriously difficult younger generation of employees aged 15 to 30.

 For more Managing Gen-Y blogs, click here.



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