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Graduate talent makes a mentor seethe
From the Financial Times of Tue, 23 Dec 2014 14:54:54 GMT

I’m becoming resentful of the graduate trainees who joined my bank in September. They are less committed than any I can remember, yet my employer’s infatuation grows. I have been mentoring an arrogant, lazy 22-year-old. In return, he has used a 360-degree evaluation to query my leadership style. Now I’ve been told by my boss that I should be doing more to “nurture talent”. How do I stop myself killing the Young Turk? Banker, male, 37


Lucy’s answer

There are two things going on here. The first is piffling and is whether this particular Young Turk is a pain in the neck or not. It is hard to answer definitely without having met him, though on your account he does sound tiresome. In which case, instead of killing him I would tell him at your next mentoring session that he needs to a) pull his finger out and do a little more work and b) be less uppity. Warn him that arrogance in the young never goes down at all well with anyone, especially with those who are young no longer. He won’t listen, but telling these home truths may make you feel better.

The bigger point is the battle of the generations at work — and the fact that you so clearly feel yourself to be on the losing side. You talk disparagingly of your employer’s “infatuation” with graduate trainees. But isn’t it a good thing if a company takes its graduate trainees seriously? They are the future. They are also smarter than they used to be. As the struggle to land good jobs has got harder, those who make it on to graduate training programs in banks tend to be better than you or I were. To get into most banks now, you need outstanding academic achievements and a CV that proves that you have done countless internships, charity projects and can run three marathons end to end. I suspect the real trouble is that you feel threatened by this new generation. If you don’t feel that way, maybe you ought to.

While you are busily thinking this young man arrogant, I bet he is equally busy thinking you stupid — and was too diplomatic to put it down on your 360 appraisal form. What he won’t have worked out is that you are also probably good at a lot of things that are essential in corporate life, but which he is entirely ignorant of. Like having some respect for hierarchies. Like understanding how companies work. Like exercising judgment. And like knowing how to rub along with people in the office.

If you do have any interest in “nurturing talent” — and what an off-putting phrase that is — then I suggest you try to talk to him about these things. Give him a hand with working out corporate life, and getting the hang of office politics. He might even be grateful.

And when you’ve done so, prove yourself a master at it, and be sure to let your boss know.

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