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3 tips for giving Generation Y feedback they’ll hear


Angela runs a busy pharmacy in a suburban shopping centre. One of her best workers is a 23-year-old science student named Pete. He’s bright, capable, and gets along with co-workers and customers.There’s one problem. Pete’s responsible for ordering new stock, and he’s made some expensive mistakes lately. Angela has asked Pete to pay more attention, but each time she feels like her feedback falls on deaf ears.

Angela doesn’t know what to do. She doesn’t have this problem with Gen X or Baby Boomer workers. She wants Pete and her other Gen Y workers to do the right thing – but she’s unsure how to get her message across.

Last post, we explained how to create a Gen Y friendly workplace culture. Now we’ll share three tips for giving Gen Y feedback that they’ll actually take on board.

1. Be generous with positive feedback

Older generations might be happy to get feedback a few times a year at performance reviews. That won’t work for Gen Y.

Gen Y workers need constant reassurance that they’re doing a good job. They’re used to receiving instant feedback on social media and from their peers – and they expect the same from you.

For a Gen Y employee, no feedback is just as bad, if not worse, than negative feedback. So if a Gen Y worker does a good job, tell them. If they’ve done an average job, say thank you and give them some suggestions for doing better next time.

It doesn’t cost anything to say thank you – even if it’s for something you think is just part of the job.

You might even find that giving regular praise helps build a positive working relationship. This can make it easier for Gen Y workers to stomach constructive criticism when the time comes to hear it.

2. Tell them what they’ve done wrong, and how to fix it

Generation Y doesn’t value seniority or job titles in the same way as older generations. They’re also more sensitive to criticism.

This makes giving constructive feedback a challenge. Gen X and Baby Boomers are satisfied with authoritative feedback like “Don’t do things this way”. But Gen Y workers want an explanation – without getting their feelings hurt.

It’s not enough to tell a Gen Y worker that they’ve made a mistake. Explain to them what they’ve done wrong, make your expectations clear, and work together to develop a solution.

3. Use more/less feedback

Each generation has a different communication style. Baby Boomers prefer direct feedback. Gen X workers need criticism sandwiched between positive comments.

Gen Y workers respond well to more/less feedback. This is where you ask them to do more of what they’re doing well, then carefully suggest improvements or corrections.

For example, you could say, “It’s great when you offer to help customers, and I need you to do more of that. When you order the wrong stock, it means that the business loses money and we waste time fixing it. So I need you to do less of that and instead pay close attention to the order form”.

For serious mistakes, say, “I need you to not shout at customers. Instead, you can get a manager to deal with the situation.”

Key takeaways

So what can managers like Angela like away from this?

Gen Y workers need feedback as much as any other generation, but given in a particular way:

  • Regular praise can make Gen Y more open to constructive feedback
  • Explain why an action is wrong
  • Ask Gen Y workers to get involved in fixing their mistakes.