I hate horror stories about managing millennials. You’ll often read they have unrealistic expectations, they’re self-centered and they expect things to be handed to them. Maybe you’ve even heard that they won’t work as hard or they have difficult personalities to manage.
Today’s entry-level workforce is made up of mostly millennials, and despite what you may read elsewhere, they can be your best employees. I’ve worked with national companies where I had to hire, train and fire my team, and every workforce has employees at both ends of the spectrum. Yes, there are bad millennial employees, like in any workforce, but the overwhelming majority of them are just fine.
I was born in between Gen X and millennials, not really fitting into either group. There are a few different names for this in-between generation, but I like to think it gives me a unique ability to understand both generations. I often see my Gen X manager co-workers frustrated with their employees, and here’s the advice I give them: Rather than entitled and self-centered, view millennials as driven and demanding the best for themselves. Then tap into this resource.
Rather than entitled and self-centered, view millennials as driven and demanding the best for themselves.
Yes, millennials will push you to be a better manager and test your patience, but look at it as a challenge and rise to it.
Don’t be a bad manager
There are many bad managers. They’re not all bad people, they just had bad managers themselves and are emulating these bad traits. Usually this entails treating an employee like a simple tool: give them a task and expect it to be fulfilled as asked. You’re the boss after all, shouldn’t they do exactly as you say? That’s not managing — that’s just giving orders.
With this brute-force method, you’ll get certain a certain amount accomplished, but your team will likely never reach its full potential. Morale will be low. Turnover will be high.
Employees aren’t robots. You’ll get more out of them if they feel a sense of higher purpose and achievement. If it were as easy as just giving an order, the military wouldn’t care about morale or making sure soldiers have a sense of purpose. They go to great expense to make sure they have both. In a career where you can literally go to jail for not following orders, they still work hard on morale because it really is the best way to get great results.
The biggest difference between a Gen X employee and millennial is the expectation of work.
Make your team a part of the goal and allow them share in the reward and you’ll find they push themselves harder than you could. Find what motivates them, and lead them towards that goal. They’ll put that bursting ambition and creativity to work for you. This can be a simple pizza party to mark the achievement.
The biggest difference between a Gen X employee and millennial is the expectation of work. Where a Gen Xer may be happy to simply have a job with a steady paycheck in this dog-eat-dog world, this isn’t enough for millennials. Millennials aren’t afraid to be unemployed (which they are in record numbers). Rightly or wrongly, they do expect to have a great job they enjoy with benefits that match. This is often why the Gen X manager looks at a millennial as entitled.
What appears to be entitlement is more just frustration that they aren’t at the same level as their own expectations. Having a huge sense of self-worth isn’t bad, they just need help directing this energy. Set lofty goals and expectations, and reward them when they meet both. They will surprise you.
Firing millennials is OK
But wait — aren’t there bad teams? Yes, there are. You should talk to the person who hired them — or the person that didn’t fire them. Oh, that’s you? Then you need to hire, fire and manage them properly, or you’re being a bad manager again. Your entire team could be suffering due to one or two individuals. Like all employees, you can fire millennials, and yet most managers seem afraid to. Why?
A lot of managers I’ve spoken have the same problem: The employee has talent (heck, they might even be amazing at their job!), but they complain, undercut the manager’s position, and generally drag down the workplace morale. What are they to do?
The manager thinks they are in a tough spot. If they discipline the very talented employee by talking to them or putting something on file, what if they quit and can’t replace the talent? I give the manager the same advice my boss and mentor gave me the first time I came across this problem: what if they stay? I will take a less talented employee with the right attitude over an extremely talented troublemaker any day. An unhappy superstar isn’t using all their talent and effort, anyways.
Don’t hold millennials back
Don’t hire someone for the job because you think they’ll be around for a while. You’ll regret this if you truly want the best team possible. Only hire people that have a desire to be better and move up in the world, and then help them get there. A rising tide lifts all boats, and these individuals will push your whole team to new heights.
The best managers I’ve ever had always cared about my future and did everything they could to help me reach my goals. In turn, I would march head first into battle for them with everything I had. I’ve made sure I’ve offered my employees the same. Don’t hold your team back because you’re afraid of losing a great employee. This only serves you, and they’ll know it. After all, you’re not supposed to be the self-centered one, right?
Millennials may need some leadership — so lead them, and they just might surprise you.
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Author: Mark Baese