The ‘Millennial’ post

More than one in three American workers are millennials, and this year they surpassed Generation-X to become the largest share of the American workforce (according to the Pew Resource Center). A lot has been said, written and discussed about this generation, and a lot of it has been negative.  There are two sides to every coin and understanding the benefits this new influx of employees bring to the table when defined and cultivated, is important for you as a Boss.  So here it comes.  The millennial post.

Part of me hesitates, because millennials are like gluten, everyone has an opinion. Everyone has some experience, source or fact that they love to quote about this new generation and how they are as a whole, but like every generation that came before it, they are our future.  They are inevitably going to dictate at some point how we work together. Just as my “Gen-X”- self is now dictating the way I work. It is no accident that there are more entrepreneurs, solopreneurs, and female rock star business bosses currently. In today’s world, more than at any time in previous history, working for one company for your entire career and receiving a juicy pension is a rarity. A solid job with no college education or special training is a thing of the past. The fact is every generation stands on the shoulders of the generation that came before them, and I think it’s important that we lift them up, as we have been lifted up by the generations that came before us. I am excited to help you understand the new Workforce and this new work environment that we are creating.

So, let’s do it.  Let’s dissect the millennials. It goes without saying (but I am going to) that generalizations, labels, boxes, qualifiers, quantifiers, and ‘painting everyone with the same brush’ is problematic. As I’ve said before, we are all unique but have a theme. There is no one formula, one scenario, or one statement that encompasses an entire people. However, we need these generalizations as a starting point.  They’re our guide points along the way that help us when it comes to dealing with a “people”.

When I am dealing with verbal processors, I understand that their words need to be taken in context. When I am dealing with Seattleites (I am a lifelong Seattleite), I understand that the ‘Cascade freeze’, as non-Western Washingtonians call it, is really just a behavioral trait of where they are from and not a reaction to me as an individual. When I deal with intuitives, I understand that they are feeling emotions around a topic that others may not, and when I am dealing with a new client, I understand that they more than likely have come to me because they are struggling with some difficult issues around boundaries, triggers, feelings, or conflict. This all informs me, but it does not box them.  So please, take what I say about Millennials with a grain of salt. There are many, many, many variations when it comes to individuals.  However, there are also some pretty stark differences.

First, the strengths;

  1. Millennials have been listening to our generation talk about what is truly important, our passion, making a difference, doing something that matters, and about the fact that only we can make the world a better place, and Millennials are truly passionate about making a difference, about mattering.
  2. They have a high level of self-esteem and belief in their ability and what they bring to the table. They have had an unprecedented amount of support and encouragement.  Again, I put in the caveat that not all of them have, but a majority of them have had a support network cheering them on.
  3. They want and believe intangibles. They believe in ‘Show me don’t tell me’. That is another trait that Millennials bring to the table.  They don’t particularly prize titles, station, or labels. They are much more likely to value you as an individual for what you bring to the table than the fact that you are the CEO or have held a position for decades. They also don’t care much about any minimizing social qualifiers, such as whether you are gay or straight, black or white, deaf or hearing, or have ADHD or not. They have an incredible ability to take the individual as they come, and they do not want to use those paint brushes, boxes, or stereotypes of others.
  4. Millennials are leading the way in minimalism (having fewer household items).  They do not value material items in the same way as past generations valued things, titles, or stuff. They feel, at a deep level, the impact they make and part of that is the imprint they leave.  They value experiences so much more than things.
  5. Another benefit to the millennial employee is their ability to task shift in a shorter time frame. I am not talking about the task shifting associated with multitasking, which is not healthy or effective.  I am referring to the task shifting of being able to fulfill a project in a short amount of time with less attention-residue from a previous task.

As with all things in life, there are two sides to every coin, so let’s take a look at how this incredible new influx of employees can impact you as the boss.  Specifically, let’s look at how you can help guide the good in them and benefits they bring to the table in an effective way to get the most out of your working relationship together.

They have been listening to how previous generations have made an impact on the world, and they too want to make a difference. This is great, but there is some more mundane day to day tasks that won’t always fulfill their need to make an impact in all they do or fulfill their “Why”. They need to see their impact on the business as a whole and the team, and they need to understand how these tasks, though they may seem trivial or below their skill set, are an important part of their position. Clear boundaries, expectations, and structures will help guide you through this.

They have a strong sense of self and good self-esteem, and a strong sense of self is important.  However, this can lead to them relying on a lot more feedback on all the things they are achieving and when they do a good job, even when you may feel it need not be addressed or lauded because it is just part of their job. A little feedback and praise goes a long way. It helps encourage them and make them feel like they are contributing in a positive way.  It helps to keep them motivated and engaged in their position.

It is a strength to not judge people based on societal labels.  However, it is equally important to not dismiss the wisdom that your age, position, or skill set brings to the table. A certain hierarchy within a company is healthy and has a purpose. That hierarchy or ‘chain of command’ should be well established and addressed. That is where a strong structure and clear boundaries benefit you as the boss.

Although they do not need labels or titles, they prize ownership. They value time to cultivate their own skills and to be able to work in a way that brings out the best in them. I believe this is why the many WeWork or shared workspace environments have sprouted up over the past few years and flex-hours have been adopted by so many companies. It is the new norm. Many of the most successful companies offer such intangibles as an open and fully stocked break room, workplace retreats, downtime areas, and flexible hours for them to work on their own projects with guidance from the more experienced members of the team.  There are some great examples at the larger companies like Google, Facebook, Starbucks, Amazon Etc. Gmail was created by a Google employee working on their side-project.

This feeds right into the final benefit, which can also be a challenge. The workplace is no longer somewhere you go 5 days a week for 8 hours a day and then go home. It has become much more of a social tribe. Offering your staff a team atmosphere where you have working retreats, do team building exercises, and allows them to work on their side-hustle will bring out the best in them. It also poses a challenge for you as a leader in establishing strong boundaries and expectations, and some interpersonal relational conflicts may arise more often and need to be addressed in a respectful clear manner. Effective communication styles and skills are the way to achieve this.

Do you have an experience with dealing with this new type of employee? How has it been for you? (Drop a comment below or send me an email – I would love to hear from you.)

Book a free strategy session with me today, so we can discover ways I can help you become a better boss.

Photo by Brianna Mills on Unsplash


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