Tips for Managing Millennials (When You Are Not One)
Updated: Apr 27, 2019
One of the most common questions I get from my executive-level clients is: "How can I work better with Millennials?" (The question is is usually followed by a heavy sigh...)
With some exceptions, most of my executive-level clients are Gen-Xers, individuals born between 1965-1979 or Baby Boomers, men and women born between 1946-1964. They struggle with how best to motivate and manage the generation that Forbes says will soon make up 75% of the US workforce by 2025. In the unlikely event you are not managing a Millennial now, hang on. You will be soon.
The tension between the generations is nothing new. I was born in 1973 - smack in the middle of Generation X. I can remember Traditionalists (those born before 1945) and Baby Boomers griping about the entitled Gen-Xers hitting the workforce. Children of the narcissistic '80s, we were all too often seen as self-centered, unappreciative of those who had paved a path for us, and lacking the ability for self-sacrifice that was required of those before us.
Enter Millennials. Often referred to as the "generation where everyone got a trophy," they are frequently stereotyped as self-absorbed, tech-junkies lacking in loyalty and possessing the "attention span of a goldfish," With such a glowing endorsement, it is no wonder Millennials often roll their eyes whenever the topic of "managing Millennials" comes up.
To be fair, managing across generations can be difficult. Period.
Millennials are different from Boomers and Gen-Xers. And, they can be challenging to manage when you apply the approaches that were used on you when you were young. Further compounding the generation gap is the widening technology comfort gap between older managers and younger employees. Millennials are used to being connected to each other ALL. THE. TIME. They are accustomed to having nearly instant feedback to every moment they capture and share. They are so comfortable with technology that they can indeed work while listening to music on their headphones (a habit that irks most Gen-Xers and Baby Boomers).
While each situation is different and no two Millennials are exactly alike, there are some basic strategies non-Millennials can use when working with Millennials. Most of the research about this issue is fairly straight forward: Be clear about what you want and your expectations - as well as the context for each (Do NOT assume they know). Give more feedback - more frequently - than you think is probably necessary. And balance all of that with finding out what makes your employees tick and help them get more of that.
When working with clients, I often direct them to the resources below for concise information on a complex challenge:
Dummies.com has one of my favorite quicker summaries of how generations can best manage each other, including helpful tips and hints that you can begin using today.
This Forbes piece offers a good summary of the core advice you need to know when managing a Millennial team.
This article is written by a Millennials for non-Millennial managers. The author can get a bit defensive (Millennials have been a bit picked on in recent years), but her advice is still valid and helpful.
Need a bit more help? Reach out and let's chat.