Managing Millennials

I am a Gen-Xer who manages Millennials. I have also managed fellow Gen-Xers, Baby Boomers and a handful of Traditionalists. I can tell you, at least from my experience, managing Millennials is very different.

If you are confused about the generation labels, below is the list with the years they were born;

  • Traditionalists: Born before 1946
  • Boomers: 1946–1964
  • Generation X (Gen X): 1965–1980
  • Millennials or Generation Y (Gen Y): 1981–2000
  • The Founders: 2001 –

Some of my observations about working with Millennials …

Millennials expect technology to simply work

Like most people, I can develop a nervous twitch when the internet goes down or my email just stops working. Millennials grew up when technology was much more advanced. Whereas I remember the days of dial up modems and saying a short prayer hoping for the long screeching sound that means Hallejuah! You are now connected to the World Wide Web. Gen-Xers grew up knowing technology was not always reliable, whereas our younger colleagues are almost confused when technology stops working.

Millennials are Attention Ambidextrous

When I was first in a meeting with a Millennial who scrolled through their phone on their lap, while nodding in agreement to whatever the CEO was saying — I thought it was a sign of disrespect.

Truth is, Millennials will listen, read and research at the same time. This means they feel it is totally okay not to make eye contact with you when you are speaking to them.

Millennials want to be able to work in the way that suits them best

According to a PwC study, “Millennials feel constrained by what they see as outdated traditional working practices. 65% said they felt that rigid hierarchies and outdated management styles failed to get the most out of younger recruits and 46% thought that their managers did not always understand the way they use technology in their work.”

My generation was taught (by our Baby Boomer parents) that consistency and structure were very important, otherwise chaos would rule. If everyone was not at their desks by 8.00am and starting work, the business would implode. Heaven forbid, if you wore casual clothes on Tuesday versus Casual Friday!! Millennials on the other hand work best under flexible work conditions with flexible start times, and the ability to work from home from time to time.

Managing Millennials is different, that’s for sure. I like to think Gen-Xers paved the way for a better, less tyrannical work environment. As a leader, a big part of your role is to get the very best from your people. Understanding generational gaps is an important part of developing star players who form part of your team.