One defining characteristic of the self-esteem generation is our near-constant evaluation. We’ve been raised in an age that measures and tracks everything, and that culture has permeated our being. Entering the workforce from the fairy-tale world of education is a great enough challenge on its own, without having to cope with our upbringing. We suddenly enter a world without feedback, and this can be a difficult change for many millenials and managers alike.
For millenials, the lack of feedback is devastating. We are used to being graded, and our self-worth is built on this fact. There has always been some “standard” to live up to, and it is difficult to operate without it. We are perfectly capable of accomplishing the tasks assigned, but we struggle with not knowing what our managers think of our performance. I find this to be especially true as an accountant. Being inexperienced, I am rarely involved in a project from start to finish. Instead, I may complete a schedule or checklist that is incorporated into a larger project. After completing my portion, the project progresses, and I am left wondering if the senior associate or partner is satisfied with the work. When a similar task is put to me on a future project, I will complete it as I had previously, hoping that my approach is still relevant. I have no way of knowing whether my approach was appropriate the first time around, let alone the second. It could be several months, and many projects later before I am aware of a problem with my work. It is only when I seriously foul up an assignment that I receive feedback, and it is generally not of the positive kind.
So what is a millenial to do? Observe. Find other ways of measuring performance. If I pass part of a project up to the next person and I don’t hear about it again, I can assume it was done right. If the partner or senior assigns me another task on the same project, I can assume that the first task was completed to a satisfactory degree. But this leads into a dangerous area if a project is backlogged. It might be that a project is complicated enough that a new task is assigned to me before the previous task is reviewed. Or that project could be on hold as we wait for information from the client, and the partner has opted to review the project as a whole, rather than as it is completed. Clearly this approach is complicated by the workflow particular to one’s work environment.
My advice is this: find your own metrics. There is evidence in any workplace of the success and progress of projects undertaken, and an observant millenial will pick up on these clues. Have you found yourself lacking feedback? How did you cope? I welcome anyone’s comments, as I expect this to be a popular topic in the weeks and months ahead.