Frustrated by a lack of initiative from young employees? Blame the rubric.

Posted On August 12, 2014

One of the recurring themes in my discussions about working with Millennials is that you can’t hold them accountable for what they don’t know they should do. And one of the frequent counterarguments is that they need to think for themselves, show a little initiative.

A college professor recently shared this article with me, which may shed some light on how your young employees came to be so dependent on being given very clear expectations: the rubric.

If you have school-age children, chances are you’ve seen a rubric – it’s basically a checklist of assignment requirements, including how many points each element of a project is worth. The purpose is to avoid claims of “but I didn’t know” by making plain what the teacher expects. Turns out it is having an unintended consequence of making students work toward the minimum requirement rather than using intuition and putting in their best effort.

So where is the line? In the workplace, I’d recommend sharing the “what” of your expectations, but encouraging ownership of the “how.” But be careful that you really mean it – if you have a precise way you expect a task to be done, don’t make employees try to read your mind. Yes, they’ll be exercising their brains, but it’s more likely they’ll be thinking about where to find another boss.

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iGen, Parenting