Win with Millennials or lose your job: What corporate managers can learn from a new generation of MLB managers.

Win with Millennials or lose your job: What corporate managers can learn from a new generation of MLB managers.
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Bahram Jamalov

Love it or hate it, a shift has changed Major League Baseball. Not the infield defense shift, but a millennial clubhouse culture shift.

Young players are prized in the game today because they are contractually bound and cost controlled to the teams’ advantage. In fact, team rosters are getting so young that the acronym “MLB” could soon stand for “Millennial League Baseball.”

Millennials now run the clubhouse and they do not respond to an old-school management style. Say goodbye to the gruff, obscenity-spewing, tobacco-spitting managers of baseball lore, and welcome the kinder, gentler and data-analytical managers that millennials can relate to.

Managers win when they play millennial baseball.

A new generation of managers is necessary to lead a new generation of ballplayers. Just like major league rosters, multicultural millennial talent is beginning to flood the corporate workplace, too.

That means all managers must start raising their millennial game and fast. Now that baseball season is over, let’s explore how the next generation of MLB managers win with millennials.

Loosen up and make work more fun.

The Houston Astros followed a millennial game plan all the way to a sweet World Series victory last week. Houston rebuilt its team on a foundation of homegrown, young talent that enjoyed playing together.

The Astros had a multicultural roster with great team chemistry. Their fun approach to work made the team exciting to watch and easy to root for.

Round out your young team with proven veteran talent.

The Astros added proven veterans at key positions to supplement their young core, the most notable being the trade deadline acquisition of starting pitcher Justin Verlander from the Detroit Tigers. Without Verlander, the Astros may not have advanced in the playoffs, let alone win the World Series.

A big star with a huge contract, Verlander not only provided heat from the mound but also a fiery presence in the dugout, clubhouse and media. The right veterans can give the young core extra confidence and vital swagger.

Millennials work best when working for more than money.

After Hurricane Harvey devastated greater Houston with rain, wind and storm surge flooding, the Astros dedicated their post-season run to its victims. Embracing the community and the rebuilding cause gave the team added purpose en route to a storybook season finish.

The Astros came to embody the Houston Strong logo affixed to their jerseys. Give millennials a noble purpose and no generation will work harder to succeed.

Millennials view themselves as free agents so woo and wow them.

Generation Y is a generation content to freelance throughout their careers. They embrace change and crave new challenges, which frustrates many seasoned managers who consider longevity a sign of loyalty.

Millennials do not want to be tied down because they came of age without many of the cultural values and institutions that kept our oldest generations grounded. After overcoming broken families, failed institutions and the declining influence of organized religion, they cannot help having a divergent outlook on life because they grew up in different world.

Appreciate that millennials value experiences more than material possessions and unlike previous generations, they won't mortgage their career options to own houses and cars. Career flexibility is currency for this adaptable freelance generation so turn it to your advantage by trying them in new roles with greater responsibilities.

Give millennials good opportunities and they will perform great for you. They will rise to the challenge and reward your respect with loyalty and perhaps longevity, too.

Millennials aren't soft or entitled, just an empowered Generation Y.

Old-school MLB managers prized players who were workhorses but new-school managers view them as prize thoroughbreds, expensive investments that must be nurtured and protected. With a long 162-game season, today’s MLB players are afforded mental health days off and sit-out games to nurse nuisance injuries that professional football, basketball and hockey players play through.

Old schoolers call millennial baseball players “soft” and millennial employees “entitled,” but both characterizations are extremely unfair. Millennials had to be mentally tough to grow up in a pressure packed social media world of peer scrutiny, information overload, cyber bullying and school shootings without succumbing to stress, anxiety and depression.

If they seem entitled it is because they have been enabled by a previous generation, their hovering, helicopter parents. Regardless if parents were trying to protect them from failure or their own fragile egos, every enabled millennial will learn that true victories are earned by overcoming adversity. Participation trophies only count in the minds of delusional parents who fear failure and youth coaches too insecure to accept defeat.

Like Millennial MLB players who have never known baseball without free agency, guaranteed contracts, perks and pampering, millennials in the workplace have never known a world without digital ease, convenience and efficiency.

Millennials must be managed differently to get the most out of their talent.

Old-school baseball managers who have been slow to adapt to a millennial clubhouse are getting fired, even winning managers with long track records of success.

For John Farrell of the Boston Red Sox and Joe Girardi of the New York Yankees, making the playoffs was not enough to save their jobs. It was more than playoff losses that doomed them—they lost respect of their millennial employees and control of their respective clubhouses, along with their contracts.

Be authentic communicating across cultures and generations.

On paper, new Red Sox manager, Alex Cora, seems like the perfect new-age managerial hire. He played for the Red Sox alongside current de facto team captain, Dustin Pedroia, and has been popular working with players across cultures and generations. He speaks fluent Spanish and translates advanced statistics into baseball strategy.

In contrast to predecessor Farrell, who spoke in soundbites as if he was ownership’s ventriloquist dummy, Cora appears engagingly authentic on and off camera. His genuine nature appeals to millennials’ craving for authenticity.

Millennials come to work with bullshit detectors preinstalled. Half-truths and double talk is the fastest way to lose millennials’ trust and respect.

Old school baseball managers who lose control of a millennial clubhouse lose their jobs. It won’t be long before corporate managers who lose the respect of millennials in the workplace lose their jobs, too.

Don’t find yourself shift out of luck.

Win with Millennials or lose your job, it’s up to you. Don’t let a culture shift get your career stuck in a generation gap.

Millennials are products of the society and system they came of age in, just like the rest of us. To win with millennials, just play millennial baseball.

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