How to Prevent Conflict & Address Issues With Your Millennial Employees

123RF Stock Photo
123RF Stock Photo

Never is the generation gap more exposed than during conflict. It’s during these turbulent times when managers lose their cool with younger employees and things often end worse than they need to.

When rules are broken in situations that don’t call for immediate termination, gain your composure and think “Open The Front Door Now.” This is the acronym for a terrific formula that helps you address — and correct — many nagging problems your young employees create. Treating these problems according to the Open The Front Door Now formula will get them back on your team.

Here’s how the formula works:

O – Observe

First, make a statement about what you observe them doing (e.g., “Hey, Trevor, I saw that you arrived five minutes late on Tuesday and again today…”). Notice, this statement isn’t accusatory; you’re simply making an observation. Pause briefly at this point to see if they inject a response. (Maybe Trevor flatly denies being late, exposing a deeper problem you might have to contend with.

Or maybe he gives you a piece of information you didn’t know, like, “Yes, but I told Mr. Martin last week that my mom would be out of town and I’d have to walk my brother home from school. He gave me the okay and said he’d let you know.”)

T – Thoughts

If your front liners don’t respond to your statements of observation, ask them for their thoughts on the matter (e.g., “So, what are your thoughts about treating customers a certain way, Courtney?”). This gives them a chance to show their cards and feel like they’re being heard.

It also gives you an opportunity to find out if you need to know anything before you continue. It’s critically important to allow them to make their case before moving forward.

F – Feedback

This is when you state the reasoning (the why) behind the rule that’s been violated (e.g., “Marcus, when all the shopping carts aren’t brought in at night, they often get stolen, vandalized, or damaged by cars that can’t seem them after the lights go off. Replacing and repairing carts cost a ton of money and affects how much we have left for employee raises…”). Give them feedback in a way that doesn’t single out any one employee. (e.g., Don’t say: “Marcus, when you leave carts in the parking lot…”).

Simply ask them to play by the same rules as everyone else for a good reason. Remember, your feedback becomes more effective when you tie it into something that directly benefits them (like possibly getting a raise).

D – Desire

This step gives you the opportunity to state your desired expectation (e.g., “From this point on, Jerome and Katie, you’re not allowed to carry on a conversation when customers are in your department. It’s your job to engage with every shopper in your area to ensure people get the help they need…”).

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Avoid making a statement from a point of weakness (e.g., “It would be really great if you could find another time…”) or one that’s open to interpretation (e.g., “If it looks like a customer has a question, then please…”). Always be firm, concise, and extremely clear.

N – Next time

Without sounding like you’re issuing a threat, put in place a consequence for an undesired behavior if it’s repeated (e.g., “If you’re seen again with your lip ring in, Ashley, you’ll be sent home and put on suspension for five days…”). Also avoid saying phrases like “If I see you…” and “If I catch you…” because they can turn you into the “bad cop” they watch out for.

Avoid generalities like “If that happens again, heads are going to roll!” and unreasonable consequences that you can’t back up like “If I see you with that lip ring in again, I’m going to pull it out of your face right then and there!” Instead, link each incorrect behavior to a specific consequence that’s consistent, enforceable, and applicable to all front-liners regardless of age.

The OFTDN formula is effective only if you use it in sequence. You can’t follow just a few of these steps and expect the results you want.

The more practice you get with this process, the more natural it will become for you. So think “Open The Front Door Now” and you’ll find that “keeping the law” and “keeping your cool” go hand in hand.

This was originally published on Eric Chester’s Reviving Work Ethic blog. His new book is Reviving Work Ethic: A Leader’s Guide to Ending Entitlement and Restoring Pride in the Emerging Workforce. For copies, visit

Eric Chester is a leading voice in the global dialogue on employee engagement, and building a world-class workplace culture. He's an in-the-trenches researcher on the topic of the millennial mindset, and the dynamics of attracting, managing, motivating and retaining top talent. Chester is a Hall-of-Fame keynote speaker and the author of 4 leadership books including his newly released Amazon #1 Bestseller On Fire at Work: How Great Companies Ignite Passion in their People without Burning Them Out.  Learn more at and follow him at @eric_chester


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