“True loyalty cannot be commandeered: It can only be won.” - The Art of Leadership by J. Donald Walters
I tweeted last night and referenced a person that I think very highly of in today’s discussions of management and leadership. Mr. Bruce Tulgan has written some eighteen books on the subject of managing both Generation X and Y workers. His research goes deep into what formulates their thoughts towards both the world and the workplace, and I’ve had the pleasure to forge a relationship with him through his company Rainmaker Thinking over the past three years. He is in a sense my personal “sensei” on the subject.
Bruce speaks throughout the year to both corporate America and the United States military on better ways to motivate and manage this highly productive and yet challenging portion of the workforce. Entire training programs and “in house” cultural transformations have been modeled off of his teachings regarding the management of Millennials. Simply put, “this guy knows his stuff”.
This past week has spurred a lot of thoughts with me surrounding the final negotiations of a potential new Collective Bargaining Agreement between NFL players and their employers (the owners/League). This situation converges into Bruce Tulgan’s first myth about Generation Y – “Disloyalty”.
If you ask Baby Boomers and older Generation Xers, “Are you loyal to your employer?” they usually say this: “Yes. No. Yes and no. It depends on what you mean by loyal.”
But the younger the person, the more likely they are to say “Yes.”…..”Are you sure? Because I thought you were going to say ‘no.’” And they say, “I’m very loyal!” And then I might say to them, “Well, where do you think you’ll be in six or twelve months?” And they say, “Oh, well, that depends on my best offer.” We call it ‘just-in-time loyalty.’ And it’s not the kind of loyalty you get in a kingdom. It’s not the kind of loyalty where people follow rites of passage, where they have blind fealty to a hierarchy. It’s not the kind of loyalty that you get in a kingdom. It’s the kind of loyalty you get in a free market.
What do you get in a free market? The answer is, ‘whatever you can negotiate.’ The way that Gen Yers think about employment relationships is short-term and transactional. But it doesn’t mean they’re disloyal. It’s just the kind of loyalty you get in a free market. It’s the kind of loyalty you have to your customers and your clients. If they stop paying, well, you probably stop delivering services and products. No hard feelings. That’s the deal.
Gen Yers are loyal. But they’re loyal to you as if you are a customer. It’s not going to be the old-fashioned, long-term, pay-your-dues, and climb the ladder kind of loyalty. If you try to get Gen Yers to make lots of short-term sacrifices now in exchange for vague promises about long-term rewards that may or may not vest in the deep, distant future, it’s just not going to work.
From: Bruce Tulgan’s Newsletter, June 16, 2011 issue – 280th edition, “The #1 Myth about Generation Y”
I can’t help but think about some of the issues that have been on the table between NFL players and NFL owners; the overall reduction in the “piece of the pie” that goes towards player salaries, significant curbs on entering rookie contracts, the haggling of four vs. five year contracts to tie up elite draft picks, and a potential 10 year long term agreement between players and the League. More so, take into account that these parameters will govern much of a talent pool that has yet to even enter, let alone graduate from college.
So what might be the ultimate stand of the NFL’s workforce in say, five years? A long term deal will not necessarily “squelch” the wants and needs of the GEN Y player. Nor will it allow NFL management to set aside the “headaches” of dealing with those wants and needs on a continuing basis.
As Bruce Tulgan will ask, “Who’s right?”.
The old-fashioned, long-term, pay-your-dues, climb-the-ladder kind of loyalty doesn’t make a lot of sense in a highly uncertain world. In a highly uncertain world it makes a lot of sense to think short-term and transactional. And remember, with Generation Y, they’ve never known it any other way.
Food for thought before the ink starts to dry.