Managing Millennials Shouldn’t Be A Problem

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Jeff Swystun
Jeff Swystun



managing-millenialsA recent article on Inc. Magazine’s website was titled, “5 Tricks for Working With Millennials.” It went on to say, “Your youngest employees are creative, bright and a complete disaster to manage. Here's how to turn the mess around.” The tone and content of this piece shocked me. I was prompted to do a Google search on “managing Millennials” to see how others viewed the topic.

I discovered five things. First, there are a great deal of views and opinions out there. More than 400,000 results popped up. In my unscientific, quick scan of the suggested reading, it appears the vast majority of these articles are written by baby boomers or Gen Xers.

My second observation is that basically every piece written communicates frustration and vexation on the part of the (older) writer towards his or her younger subjects. After a few reads, this actually becomes humorous. Much of the writing and advice comes across as flabbergasted and distraught parents reacting to their own out-of-control teens.

The third area concerns the broad generalities that have been assigned to this youthful workforce. They are labeled as entitled, opportunistic to the point of being “hustlers,” self-centered, nonconformist and disloyal. The only credit they seem to receive is that they are good with technology and social media.

Fourth, I was struck by how superficial and hokey the advice is for managing these “disastrous youth.” There are “11 tips,” “seven strategies” and of course, “five tricks.” This content is either comprised of generic common sense or insultingly positioned command-and-control techniques that would obviously backfire with anyone who has talent and a modicum of self-esteem.

My fifth observation is how incredibly adversarial all of this comes across. It is definitely “us against them,” with the older, supposedly learned and experienced set sounding supremely “right” yet appearing almost entirely defensive.

I am now 48 years old and remember fondly when I was the young upstart. All I wanted was to learn, be given a chance and make a valuable contribution. My experience in working with Millennials has proven they largely want the same things. I owe much to the leaders and managers who mentored me and allowed me huge opportunities to fall flat on my face just so I could pick myself up and do it right the next time around.

I cannot offer up sage advice that will instantly solve the “managing Millennials” problem because I do not believe it exists. The issue may actually reside with the management old guard who are defending the status quo long after the quo has lost its status. I relish the opportunity to work with Millennials so together we can learn and make valuable contributions. If this strange and unnecessary divisiveness exists at your company, the only ones benefiting from it are your competitors.

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