As it is now, it's clear that millennials are saturating the workforce of every industry. We're everywhere! As a millennial myself, I often hear a ton of misconceptions and stereotypes about my snap chatting and skinny jeans wearing brethren. As a manager of millennials, I have come face-to-face with many of these stereotypes and found a couple ways in which to deal with them.
So, how do you manage millennials, when, well, you're a millennial yourself? I'm still learning and experimenting with new techniques, but I've found, for me, the best answer lies in defining the purpose of work. Here are three misconceptions about managing millennials that I've learned over the years and how I'm dealing with them:
Stereotype 1: Millennials feel entitled
What people say: Millennials feel that they don't have to put in the years to be a "boss".
Why do they do it? To them, it's not so much about the time put in as it is about the confidence they have in themselves to accomplish the job. We millennials have been taught since pre-school that we were all special snowflakes and have been given loads of responsibility in various extra-curricular roles both in and outside of school. Unlike our parents' generation, we were given leadership roles while growing up and we feel like we know what we're doing.
So what should you do? Millennials need to feel a sense of ownership with the work they do so they feel directly responsible for impacting the organization. Millennials are very purpose-driven; they need to know why what they're doing matters. They are quick to solve problems on their own, but they need a structured set of guidelines to be able to do so. This goes back to how most millennials, including myself, were raised as kids; structured playtime. For me, this is the concept I need to work on the most. It's time to reconstruct the way we assign work and let millennials own parts of their work. Their results will probably impress you.
Stereotype 2: Millennials are more play hard... than work hard.
What people say: Millennials value their social life over work life.
Why do they do it? Millennials are the generation that came from families who were devoted workaholics. In the fight to not be like their parents, millennials find themselves turning off once the clock strikes 5 on a Friday. By the fifth chime the weekend has started and to them that means time to tune out work, relax and unwind. Work life balance is very important to them because they didn't see much of it from their parents growing up. I have no problem with finding this balance, BUT certain occasions call for extra work hours. It all goes back to understanding purpose.
So what should you do? When after hours work is required make sure the purpose is clearly stated. Explain why crunch time or evening hours is appropriate and when millennials understand the value and purpose they'll step up to the challenge. What also follows with work life balance is fairness -- "why am I working and so-and-so isn't?" I have employees who will make sure they have their weekends to themselves and others who will take assignments home with them -- it's about their job, duties and how they work. Millennials need to understand that if they're expected to take work home, why that is and the purpose of it that follows their job title.
Stereotype 3: Millennials must be connected to their media 24/7
What people say: Millennials are always distracting themselves with Facebook or YouTube at work.
Why do they do it? Millennials value their media connectivity. I know I find myself multitasking during meetings with my laptop open or grabbing my phone for a call or text. Millennials are used to being connected at all times; multitasking comes second nature to us because we grew up with the mindset that multitasking and staying connected gives us a leg-up. There's nothing wrong with this balancing act if the environment is appropriate and the purpose isn't compromised.
So what should you do? Define to millennials which types of environments are okay to multitask in and which are not. Bringing this back to the foundational solution of defining the purpose, millennials need to see the purpose of what is to be accomplished in a setting and recognize if that can be done while doing other things. For example, I would say conversations that require full-participation from everyone should call for a disconnect from outside distractions (step away from the candy crushing people). Other meetings or interactions where participation isn't completely necessary, more of a sit-in and listen, let them indulge in their media.
I hope that some of these hard lessons learned are helpful in managing your team of non-stop texting youngins. At the end of the day I'm just another skinny jean wearing, craft beer fan millennial trying to make it big and figure out the professional work field along the way.