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Giving Feedback: When Your Gen Yer Isn’t No. 1

Gen Y stereotypes indicate that this group of young employees demands feedback but can’t take criticism. It’s always easy to tell your employee when he’s a rock star, but what do you do if he’s not? You don’t want your performance review meeting to result in shouting or crying because the news came as a surprise to your employee.

Avoid a messy performance review by following these tips:
·       Have your Gen Yer take an active role in preparing for the review: Don’t leave the discussion up to chance. Ask your employee to reflect on the last year’s successes and challenges. Then take it a step further and ask for areas where the employee fell short; have him articulate what he would or could have done to make things turn out better. This approach separates personal responsibility from situational circumstances.
·       Prepare for the review yourself: It’s really easy to remember the project that bombed or the client who yelled. But reviews are about both the good and the bad. Make sure you’ve got the good things prepared and can explain to your Gen Y employee why he handled things so well in those instances.
·       Be clear about development opportunities:There’s a saying, “Don’t be part of the problem, be part of the solution.” When employees have a bad performance review and walk out knowing they need to fix things but don’t have any idea where to start, managers aren’t being part of the solution. Find out what development programs and resources are available and help the employee make a concrete plan for improvement. Get your Gen Yer to be involved as part of the solution, too. There could be social training tools or local networking events that can help your employee get the skills he needs.
·       Check in frequently: Many Gen Yers have a hard time with feedback because it can easily feel like an ambush. If it’s the first time your employee hears about his weakness, he’s going to wonder about all those times he could have course-corrected. Set up progress checks at regular intervals (at least quarterly) so you both can mark whether there’s been improvement.

Employees aren’t always going to be on the rock star path. Make sure to check with HR around performance management protocols, but do what you can to help make sure the employee gets plenty of notice when there’s a problem. You might find that things are easier to correct simply by having open lines of communication.