Young employees don’t know how to act in an office

Dear Evil HR Lady,

I work for a government organization, so we get a lot of newcomers for whom this is their first job. They range from people straight out of high school to fresh college graduates. Either way, the majority tend to be horrible workers.

In addition to teaching these newcomers their job, which I have no problem with, we end up having to teach them life lessons: chip in for the candy jar; if the bathroom stall is closed, that means someone is in there; the private bathroom isn’t your phone booth; asking you to do your job shouldn’t be the world’s hugest inconvenience (aka “I’m sorry to tear you away from Facebook/candy crush/Internet.”); wipe your feet when walking into the building…. I could go on forever!!

I bring some of these issues up to my boss, but I think he thinks I’m a tattletale. He’s not the best manager, and there is a ton of stuff that goes on at our level that he has no idea about. So the blatantly obscene stuff I make sure he knows about, like people cutting out of work five hours early when all the bosses are off work one day. Should I just shrug this off, or just start to take matters into my own hands? I want to be easy-going, but life won’t let me!

To read the answer, click here: Young employees don’t know how to act in the office

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4 thoughts on “Young employees don’t know how to act in an office

  1. There are no “tattletales” in the adult working world.
    That term needs to stay in elementary school where it belongs.

    As Alison at AskAManager says:
    1) is this issue impacting your ability to get your own work done?
    2) Do you manage these people?

    If the answer to either of these is yes, 1) solve the problem or bring it to your manager – the actual work-impacting part of the problem or 2) have a talk with the employee before this affects their performance review.

    Otherwise, deep breath, you’re not their mom or their manager. You’re a co-worker. Try to let it go. It’s a lose-lose situation otherwise.

  2. Maybe OP should think about creating a new employee orientation session where company culture and norms are discussed. You’re already teaching them their job, why not include this other information?

  3. Maybe OP needs to learn to mind her own business and think about if her behavior as hall monitor is causing her own work to be less than what is expected of her. She stated that the boss already thinks she’s overstepping her boundaries and still her behavior towards him and her colleagues hasn’t been modified to reflect his constructive criticism.

    Given that she is in a government position, she probably knows that she can get away with doing the bare minimum of her position description and still keep her job due to experience or seniority. I just started a state job after having worked over 5 years in the private sector after graduating from college. Government jobs don’t seem to operate under the same mindset as private sector jobs. It can be frustrating to run out of work to do with half of your day left and have to come up with ideas to keep busy or ask if there are any projects that need to be done. Even in non union jobs, it can be difficult to weed out the low performers due to seniority among other factors. One co-worker was telling me that the average age of state employees in our department went from the low 60s to the mid 40s due to retirements and buyout offers in less than 3 years.

    Her criticism of her boss is interesting. More than likely, he probably is well qualified for his job, unless he’s a political hire, which is possible. Her comment about him not being a good manager from her POV shows that maybe she feels that she should have more authority or that maybe he views her criticism of minute issues as a distraction from the big picture. He probably knows that these young professionals that he in all likelihood hired are getting their work done. He probably doesn’t care if they go on facebook, text on their phones, take personal calls, etc as long as they get their work done and he and the organization are happy with the results.

    I’ve worked with individuals who are obsessed with the little minor details at the expense of the big picture and they are not the most ideal coworkers to have. I would suggest to her to lay off the nagging and harassing behavior because it’s going to reflect poorly on her by making her seem hard to get along with and detrimental to the overall morale of the workplace. Her boss has told her to cease the behavior and he probably has gotten complaints that Jane needs to learn to mind her own business from others. She’s just hurting herself rather than the people she’s criticizing by continuing to act in this manner. From the boss and others’ POV, she’s the horrible employee.

    I ride the bus daily with other state employees who have been working for the state for at least 20 years in entry level clerical positions. It’s frustrating listening to them complain about their job, their co-workers, and the fact that we have to pay more for our benefits. I want to tell them that I know a number of people who would love to have your jobs so quit whining or retire already. There’s probably some recent graduate who is temping or working multiple part time jobs who would love to have a state position despite the diminished benefits. It’s a job that has guaranteed job security after the probationary period and it may not pay as well as the private sector, you pay less for and have a better benefits package. I had to apply I believe to over 10 positions in almost 2 years before I got an offer. That shows how competitive getting a state job is where I am.

  4. I love this topic for so many reasons. I’m gen Y. I take frequent breaks. I browse the internet. I play the occasional game on my phone, although I don’t take personal calls at work, I do text on occasion.

    All of those things would drive the OP nuts. Here’s the thing, I do more work at a higher level than all except one person in my department. I’ve been promoted with less experience than is normally required. I’ve been given the lead on projects that include older workers as supporters. In other words, I take care of business. Does it upset coworkers that I go for a 5 minute walk once an hour? I don’t really care because, chances are, I’m doing higher quality work and more of it for the other 55 minutes an hour than they are in the full hour.

    I know it is hard for a lot of older workers to swallow, but hours spent working don’t mean anything, it is all about results. If they are texting and using the phone and still getting an acceptable amount of work done, then back off and let them be.

    If they are goofing off and not getting their work done, then it falls to management to plumb them up, not you.

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