Caution: young people at work

how to fit in at work

Young people often land in in the same companies where they worked while studying at university. That's certainly the experience of friends' children who ended up in retail or leisure sector jobs after college with hopes of working their way to the top. I'm struck by how proud they are about their company when they first begin work and quickly they become knowledgeable about its values and performance: they really do become company boys and girls. But their very youthful idealism also makes them more than usually vulnerable to being knocked back in their early 20s, when the company does something which they believe is at odds with its values or which they see as "unfair."

At this point they are likely to withdraw into themselves. They feel let down and under-stimulated, when all they really wanted was to progress. They act all this out in a tendency towards sullen withdrawal. They use teenage techniques - and far too often their managers don't see past the behaviour. Miserable stalemate. New graduates often leave roles in which, given a modicum of understanding and support, they might otherwise have flourished.

When coaching for the National Skills Academy for Social Care, I helped high flying graduates become conscious of how their disappointment led them to self-sabotage. These young people had won places on a hugely competitive scheme to grow the next generation of social care leaders. But their first work placements were of course more modest and many of them were under-used. Through coaching, they learned to have greater choice about their behaviours and change them, becoming more assertive, less passive aggressive, letting their managers know how keen they were to contribute.

That experience opened my eyes to how hard it is for young people to join the workplace, how little support they get - most never have access to coaching, of course - and how the managers of young people new to the workplace could do so much more to get the most out of their young staff. Young people with talent and enthusiasm are lost because no-one knows how to listen to them.


York | Leeds | Doncaster

I work face to face in Yorkshire. I also provide online leadership coaching services all over the UK and internationally.

Healthy Conversations Ltd, York, YO318HL, Co. number 6917695

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