What do Millennial's really think about appraisals?

What do Millennial's really think about appraisals?
Promoted by What do Millennial's really think about appraisals?

It’s almost the end of the financial year for many businesses and this will bring about an event dreaded by employees everywhere: the annual end of year appraisal. Appraisals have a notoriously bad reputation (one that we at Actus™ absolutely refute), but I will admit that appraisals can be a bit of a weird phenomenon for the Millennial.

When you first enter the workplace, you might not even know what end of year appraisals are. When you learn what they are, you might decide they’re a waste of time. They might make you feel like a child again, trying to explain your school report to your parents.

The thing about appraisals is that if handled well, they can be helpful. You get an opportunity to reflect on what you’ve done well in the past six months or year and you get to talk to your manager about the issues you’d like help with. Your manager also gets to give you some feedback, which can be great – but if it’s not what you were expecting, their comments can be quite difficult to accept.

No one likes negative feedback. Regardless of who it comes from, negative feedback can be a difficult pill to swallow. However, for the poor Millennial, it’s supposedly even more difficult to stomach.

The Millennial ‘problem’

I myself am a Millennial, and my generation have some negative stereotypes attached to us. Generation X (our parents) and the Baby Boomers (our grandparents) have decided that, as a generation, Millennials are lazy, self-entitled, and narcissistic (interesting claims considering who raised us!). According to Gen X and Boomers, too much focus was placed on our achievements growing up, so much so that we now celebrate events like children finishing nursery school with graduation ceremonies. We continue to live with our parents after graduating from university (which may be something to do with the 20% rise in house prices since 2013 in figures released last year) and we like selfies (which is a crime, apparently).

In 2013 when Joel Stein released his now infamous article in TIME magazine entitled Millennials: The Me Me Me Generation (that received some fantastic rebuttals) he argued, in short, that Millennials have been raised with too much self-esteem. This self-esteem, Stein claims, has led to Generation Y being unable to keep jobs or stay in relationships. An inflated sense of self-esteem has convinced Millennials that they’re special, and Stein believes this has created adults who are inevitably going to be disappointed when the rest of the world doesn’t agree. In the workplace, it’s not difficult to see why this could be problematic, and potentially foster an environment full of frustrated staff and managers.

Instant access to social media also lets other Millennials affirm the ‘I’m special’ belief – think of the rush you get when someone follows your Instagram account, or responds to your tweets. ‘Internet celebrity’ is an actual real (and surprisingly well paid, in some cases) occupation in 2016. So it becomes a circle – we feed our ‘narcissism’ by posting pictures of ourselves and the Gen Xer’s and Baby Boomers get to confirm that we are indeed self-obsessed and shallow… despite, you know, being the ones who gave us the confidence to think we’re great in the first place. It reminds me of John Berger’s quote on perspectives and perceptions in his text Ways of Seeing:

“You painted a naked woman because you enjoyed looking at her, put a mirror in her hand and called the painting “Vanity,” thus morally condemning the woman whose nakedness you had depicted for you own pleasure.”

Unfortunately to lots of Millennials, unless you’re Bernie Sanders, it can feel a bit like Baby boomers and Gen Xer’s are out to get us: they’ve raised us to believe in ourselves and then some have decided they don’t like it when we do.

So, it’s perhaps not ideal to have Boomers managing their Millennial staff, but more often than not it might be that exact thing happening. So how can we make appraisals successful even if we do receive negative feedback?

Stop the stereotypes

Speaking from a Millennial perspective, I believe we need our managers to understand our needs, and the evidence suggests they won’t. Boomers don’t naturally provide feedback on a regular basis, which is something Millennials expect to receive (due to those self-esteem building upbringings we had.). However, this doesn’t mean that they won’t – we just need to be confident enough to ask for it. Bring this up in your appraisal with your manager and as a solution suggest having regular one to ones with them. These can act as touch points for both of you and be great opportunities to get feedback between your appraisals.

Managers also need to be constructive with their comments. As we’re (apparently) not going to get on very well with negative feedback (though I am positive Millennials are not the only generation who suffer from this challenge!) I propose two methods here around delivering and accepting negative feedback during appraisals:

Firstly, managers need to stop expecting that Millennials are going to take feedback badly. We need to do away with these myths around vapid, shallow Millennials, because all the things Boomers and Gen Xer’s are calling us now, they were once being called by their parents. The younger generation is always somewhat obscene in the eyes of those who came before them, for example, instant, non-verbal communication is something lots of Boomers and Gen Xer’s can feel quite unfamiliar with, but being able to send a text and have a reply in under a minute is a lot more convenient than waiting over a week for a letter. So, managers should go in expecting great things from their Millennials. While the young have a lot to learn from their managers, there’s also a wealth of knowledge managers can gain from working with younger members of staff, if they’re open minded enough to realise it.

Secondly, Millennials – we are not absolved of open-mindedness. There’s so much to learn during your first few years in a full-time work and learning from those who are more experienced than you is a brilliant opportunity to do it. Don’t disregard the opinions of a manager who is a little more VCR than Netflix – video killed the radio star, after all, just like Netflix killed all your weekend plans that month the new season of Orange is the New Black premiered. Everything has its place.

If you’re given feedback that’s a massive shock to you – seriously, schedule some regular one to one’s already – and it involves you making some massive changes, think of the new business year as a kind of rebirth.


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Comments (1)

  • jose
    Wed, 7 Dec 2016 4:06pm GMT
    Well, yes all generations have their vices and good points ad there is always a difference in opinion, its a question of perspective and perception, we see things differently , great that adds to the workplace and to the solutions we will find, hopefully.
    All I hear is Gen this and gen that, what we must realise is we are not yet machines, but we sure are looking to make our brains that way by the way we work - we are not analysts but perceivers, ok some are more one than the other, but the structure is there and as we force the change we will change and real specialisation will then happen in humans, like a triathlon champ vs the IT specialist or any other pair. We have as humans adapted to changes but now the real test will come. Will we split and will all aspects survive.
    I think not, as the 6th extinction happens in out life time some humans will be included. So allow for diversity, understand the differences even if hard to deal with these. Keep changing and learning.