Ask Annie

How to manage millennials

November 16, 2010: 11:01 AM ET

Dear Annie: I read with amusement your recent advice to the summer intern who hoped for a job offer despite a tattoo ("Get hired after an internship," August 20). Great, but how about some help for those of us on the other side of the desk? I'm managing a team of 10 part timers between the ages of 17 and 20 -- and I'd gladly accept tattoos in place of some of their attitudes.

Don't get me wrong, these are basically good, smart kids. But, for example, there are certain tasks they forget to do, over and over again, unless I remind them. When I do remind them, they turn sullen and rebellious, as if I were a nagging mom. My older employees (mostly in their 30s), meanwhile, get impatient with "the kids" and make a big deal out of every little mistake until I'm ready to scream. Have you or your readers got any tips for dealing with the generation gap? --No Name in Nevada

Dear No Name: It may help a little to bear in mind that "teenagers' brains are not yet completely formed," says Meagan Johnson, half of a father-and-daughter consulting team that's coached managers at American Express (AXPFortune 500), Harley-Davidson (HOGFortune 500), Nordstrom (JWNFortune 500), and many other big companies on how to defuse the tensions that arise at work between generations. "We expect them to act like us in the workplace, but that just isn't realistic."

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About This Author
Anne Fisher
Anne Fisher
Contributor, Fortune

Anne Fisher has been writing "Ask Annie," a column on careers, for Fortune since 1996, helping readers navigate booms, recessions, changing industries, and changing ideas about what's appropriate in the workplace (and beyond). Anne is the author of two books, Wall Street Women (Knopf, 1990) and If My Career's on the Fast Track, Where Do I Get a Road Map? (William Morrow, 2001).

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