Managing millennials starts by understanding where they come from

May 5, 2014 by Lucy Chabot Reed

Entire books, many of them, have been written on how older generation managers can more effectively manage millennials, those born in the 1980s and 1990s. A quick Internet search revealed a few helpful hints.


Tips for managing millennials

According to Susan Heathfield, a human resources consultant in Michigan, millennials are used to working in teams, work well with diverse co-workers, and want to make friends with people at work. They need to see where their career is going and they want to know exactly what they need to do to get there.


Heathfield offers these tips for managing millennials on

1. Provide structure. Certain activities are scheduled every day. Goals are clearly stated and progress is assessed. Define assignments and success factors.

2. Provide leadership. Millennials want to look up to you, learn from you, and receive daily feedback from you. Plan to spend a lot of time teaching and coaching and be aware of this commitment to millennials when you hire them.

3. Encourage their self-assuredness, “can-do” attitude, and positive personal self-image. Millennials are ready to take on the world. Encourage, don’t squash or contain them.

4. Take advantage of their comfort level with teams. Used to working in groups, millennials believe a team can accomplish more and better. You can mentor, coach and train millennials as a team.

5. Listen to them. Millennials are used to loving parents who have scheduled their lives around the activities of their children. They have ideas and opinions, and don’t take kindly to being ignored.

6. Provide a life-work balance. They work hard, but they are not into the 60-hour work weeks defined by Baby Boomers. Spending time with family is a priority. Don’t lose sight of this.

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Myths about millennials

Things aren’t always what they seem with millennial employees, says Cam Marston, a writer about generations and their impact on the marketplace.


“If you are like most business leaders, you’ve no doubt noticed a trend in the way employees behave in recent years,” he writes in a story pointing out the myths of millennial employees on “Most likely you consider it a negative trend — too much entitlement, not enough loyalty, only interested in themselves, etc. But I challenge you to consider that perhaps these are not negative trends, just different ones. Things aren’t always what they seem with millennial employees.”


The key is understanding how millennials view the world and using that knowledge to motivate them. He offers this hint: meet them where they are and they will achieve your underlying goals; try to force them to fit your definitions and they will run for the door every time.


Marston debunks a few myths about millennials in an article on

Myth: Millennials have no work ethic.

Reality: Millennials have a self-centered work ethic. This is not necessarily a negative. They are dedicated to completing their task well. They ask “what is my job” and go about figuring the best, fastest way to complete that task. Then they consider themselves done.

Understand that being at the job isn’t as important as completing the assigned task.

Myth: Millennials don’t put in the hours to get ahead.

Reality: While Baby Boomers tend to see time as something to invest, millennials view it as a valuable currency not to be wasted. They want to get the job done, then put it behind them and enjoy life.

Millennials live in the now. Their world has proven that nothing is a guarantee — from nationwide layoffs to war to soaring divorce rates, they have decided that there’s not a lot you can count on. As a result they are not interested in promotion plans for five years from now. They don’t even want to know what will happen at the end of the summer.

To reach millennials and reduce turnover, make it certain. Tell them you have a plan, in a time frame short enough for them to envision. And fulfill your promise; once fooled, millennials are forever jaded.

This approach feeds into their reality, while building trust and buying you more time. Reward small successes along the way, string these milestones together, and you will soon realize longer tenures among your staff.

Myth: Millennials have no respect for authority.

Reality: They don’t respect authority “just because.” For the younger generations, every ounce of loyalty and respect must be earned. But when it is earned, it is given fiercely. Loyalty to the boss is the No. 1 reason millennials stay in a job, especially during the first three, tenuous years. Dissatisfaction with the boss is the No. 1 reason they quit.

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About Lucy Chabot Reed

Lucy Chabot Reed is publisher and founding editor of The Triton.

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