Gen Y: Expect More from Your Manager

In a recent blog post, Gen Y: The Doom of Middle Managers? Entry-Level Rebel Jessica Stillman points to data that suggests Gen Y workers might not need traditional middle managers. 


Changes in technology, attitudes, and the nature of work eliminate the need for supervisors who only see their job as telling people what to do and then evaluating performance at an annual review.

If that is what’s happening in your organization, consider asking senior leadership to create a higher standard for managers.  Setting goals and conducting performance reviews are just the beginning of a middle manager’s job.  Their real value is in their ability to access resources, remove obstacles, and provide day-to-day coaching for the people who report to them. 

If your manager is not providing you with the support that you need to succeed, here are three things to ask for (and a proven way on how to ask for it.)

What to ask for

  1. A clear sense of how your job impacts key departmental goals. Everyone needs to know that their work is meaningful and to have some clear alignment between what they do and what the organization is trying to accomplish.  If you can’t point to a key departmental objective and how your work is impacting it, you do not have the alignment that should be in place.
  2. A well defined job that includes some routine and some challenging tasks. In a healthy work environment, you will typically have 3-5 goals that you need to accomplish.  If your job is structured properly, some of those tasks will be very achievable with your present skills while others are more of a stretch that you cannot accomplish with your current skill set and resources. This mix is an essential component of a satisfying job that also encourages career growth.
  3. A clear agreement with your boss about where you are at and what you need to succeed.  For tasks where you are self sufficient you need an agreement with your boss to give you the autonomy you deserve to accomplish the task as you see fit.  No one likes being micromanaged on tasks they are capable of achieving on their own.  For tasks that are beyond your current skill level and immediate resources, you need an agreement for the direction and support that will help you access the budget, training, and expertise you need to get the job done.

How to ask for it

  • Use “I need” statements.  One of the most powerful ways you can get the help you need to accomplish your work goals is to use “I need” statements.  For example, “In order to process customer orders more efficiently, I need a higher level of access into our customer database,” or “In order to create the type of social media campaign and metrics that we are talking about, I need some additional training.”  For best results, pair any “I need” statement with three possible solutions.  Very few bosses will turn down this type of request—especially when it is in pursuit of legitimate departmental goals.

A good middle manager or front line supervisor takes strategic directives and turns them into results.  Is that the role your immediate manager is playing?  If not, expect more.  Use “I need” statements to make sure that your job is aligned,  that you have a mix of routine and stretch goals, and that you have an immediate supervisor committed to helping you access the resources you need to succeed.

Good middle managers will never be obsolete.  That distinction is only reserved for managers who see their role as assigning tasks and evaluating others.  That truly is obsolete, not just for the next generation of employees, but for all employees.

2 thoughts on “Gen Y: Expect More from Your Manager

  1. This is great- thanks for keeping the conversation going. I’d also add a fourth thing to ask for: frequent feedback on progress and success. Not only do Gen Y’ers thrive off of feedback and are used to it, frequent feedback will help them stay engaged more, knowing that they’re being observed. The observation will also trigger them to know that other people have big expectations for them, which is a primary motivator for Gen Y’ers.

    Also, I wonder if throwing the “I need” statements out there could come across as too direct, demanding, or arrogant. What about a more humble posture, like “I want to figure out how to process customer orders more efficiently. Could we talk about…?” That would soften the approach but get the same results.

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