Rearing puppies

Apologies to Gen-Y, but I’m about to liken them to dogs, or more specifically puppies. MICHAEL PHILLIPS

Michael Phillips

By Michael Phillips

When younger people join the workforce they are like puppies – full of energy, expectations and looking for guidance. If their “owner” (read: manager) is strong, diligent and a born leader, then the puppy will grow to be a fantastic, loyal and most rewarding addition to the family. On the other hand, if the owner is weak, the puppy will never make it and your carpet, shoes and washing will never be the same.

The thing about dogs though is their years are seven times quicker than humans, so while they might wee on the carpet and chew your favourite pair of high heels, in a year they’ll be fetching the paper and rolling over on request.

This is where the metaphor for managing Gen-Y becomes most critical, as while new Gen-Y staff may well be “puppies” in the organisation, if they are managed well, they will be over-achieving faster than you can say fetch.

Therein lies the problem. What is the best way to manage Gen-Y to achieve the best outcome for them and the manager?

Here’s five things a manager must ensure:

  • Listen, and not just head nodding and “in one ear out the other” acceptance. Really listen, like as if it was you talking to your manager.
  • Empower and trust, once the staff member has proved their worth. If the leash is too tight you are choking the best out of the person. Let them be free to be everything they can with appropriate guidance. This means, be strong and dependable, but not controlling and restrictive.
  • Provide mentors – this can be the manager, but more often than not, people look for other avenues other than their boss for mentors. This allows them to talk freely and not be concerned about what they may or may not discuss.
  • Reward based on action – not only does this promote a positive approach it shows the puppies what is right and that hard work is the most important thing.
  • Be flexible – Gen-Y hate rigid “this is the way we have always done it” requests. Don’t be afraid of change, embrace it.

Barring the above, there is always Bark Busters….

But seriously, within all this, you can’t discount the role of the “owner” or manager. There are plenty of bad dogs out there, but the majority of them are the result of bad owners. There are always exceptions to the rules and some “puppies” are harder than others to train, but with time, attention and a consistent approach they can exceed your expectations.


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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