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Trust Me, Generations X And Y Don't Trust You

When Justin Bieber accepted the Milestone Award at the 2013 Billboard Awards, the crowd booed. This caught the musician by surprise since it is a fan-driven honor. Music critics believe Bieber’s recent antics–showing up late to concerts, threatening paparazzi, and alleged drug and alcohol use–have disappointed fans.

When Justin Bieber accepted the Milestone Award at the 2013 Billboard Awards, the crowd booed. This caught the musician by surprise since it is a fan-driven honor. Music critics believe Bieber’s recent antics–showing up late to concerts, threatening paparazzi, and alleged drug and alcohol use–have disappointed fans.

That same night, during the live broadcast of Celebrity Apprentice, Donald Trump singled out finalist Penn Jillette for writing “bad things” about him and attacking him in a published book. Shortly thereafter, Trump announced Trace Adkins as the winner of Celebrity Apprentice.

Beiber is feeling the heat from his fans and Jillette didn’t get hired as Trump’s apprentice largely because of distrust.

During the past 40 years, trust in each other and many institutions has been dropping steadily. These years were marked by events that furthered distrust–like junk bonds, Monica Lewinsky, Enron, Catholic church sex scandals, and the Iraq war, to name a few.

As a result, much research supports the case that Generations X (1965-1981) and Y (1982-1995) are the most distrusting generations in history. Chances are, if you work with young professionals, they aren’t especially trusting of you or your organization.

This decline poses a risk to business; trust is critical to driving business results and engaging employees–especially young employees. To them, trust is everything.

Here’s what younger generations want you to know about building their trust:

  • It’s all about personal growth. We will know you trust us if you are open about the importance of our contribution to the team and the organization. Help us understand how our daily tasks make the whole company function.
  • Use technology. You will lose our respect if the WiFi doesn’t work, our computer time is monitored, social media sites are blocked, or any technology is outdated.
  • Work-life balance is essential. The very idea of flexible work schedules is one of trust. Trust we will do the work we need to do when it needs to be done.
  • Encouragement is appreciated. Build trust with us by demonstrating your gratitude for our accomplishments. Feedback, encouragement, and recognition will keep us happy and performing.
  • Ask for our input on decisions. But if you’ve already made the decision and you’re not open to changing your mind, don’t go through the motions of bringing us into the process. You won’t get buy-in. In fact, we will feel conned. Trust us to be part of the decision-making process.
  • Give us an opportunity to make a difference. Don’t tell us we’re too young to move up or we’ll probably move on. Challenge us and trust us with increasing responsibility. We want the opportunity to impress you and do meaningful work.

When it comes to gaining the trust of younger generations, these are the strategies that work.

Trust me.

Sarah Sladek

Concerned about declining engagement in our nation’s membership associations, non-profits, and workplaces, Sarah Sladek founded XYZ University, the nation’s first and only generations-focused training and engagement strategy company, in 2002.

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