The Black and Gold(en) Rule

Recently I attended a training on workplace harassment. While I was familiar with most of the “do’s and don’ts” I was surprised to find out that I’m now in a protected age range. (Look ma’, I made it!) Fear not, I don’t plan to discuss the merits of a 40ish year old being age protected. As I’m still in the beginning stage of my ascent up 40 mountain, I’m fortunate enough to have never experienced that on a personal level.

As happens when I’m presented with something new, I try to look at all sides, to include the inverse. This rabbit hole dive, led me to think about all the young people we employee and how vital they are to our seasonal operations. Perhaps it was recently reading Kristin’s blog last week, or the seasonal staff that are beginning to trickle in the office to say hi while they’re home from break. How do seasoned supervisors and co-workers treat new-to-the workforce or less experienced young people?

New York Islanders v Boston Bruins

It reminded me of something I heard last summer.  During the Stanley Cup playoff run, Zedeno Chara, the 42 year old captain of the Boston Bruins, was asked about some of the younger Bruins. He responded,

“If I can help them in any way I’d love to. Age doesn’t really separate the conversations or the personalities. I’ve been saying that for a long time.

We are treating everybody the same way no matter if somebody is 18, or 40, or somebody has 1,000 games or is playing in their first game. We treat everybody with respect in the same way as everybody else in the locker room. I’ve said it many times. Since a very young age, I didn’t like the separation in a team between young players and older players, [or] players who have accomplished something or players that are just coming into the league. I don’t like to use the word ‘rookie.’ They are our teammates. I just don’t like to separate. I don’t think that’s the right thing to do. Once you’re a team, you’re a team regardless of the age, or accomplishments. We have to treat each other with respect and the same way.”

Big Z’s advice is spot on. There’s so much good stuff in there.  The word he uses multiple times is “respect.” How we treat each other is something I’ve always believed to be of major value, not just in our profession, but I think it’s pretty safe to say is a universal advantage. We can’t treat our teenage staff or young adults any differently than anyone else.

Talk with them like you would talk to your closest peer with 20+ years experience. Notice I said “with” and not “to?” There are two parts to talking with someone, the talking part, and the LISTENING part. Listening to your young staff is far more valuable than droning on about the “good old days.” More often than not, you will come away with a better understanding of that person, or maybe you’ll learn something yourself.

Be patient as you train them and give them the tools needed to succeed. Try to remember when you didn’t have “all the answers.” Be an example through your actions and show them the work ethic you needed to get where you are. Treating them kindly, fairly, yet still with high expectations and clearly defined goals will provide opportunities for a more productive team and healthier work force.

Author: Mike Erno

Director of Parks & Recreation, Hampden Township

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