How To Manage Millennials (When YOU’RE A Millennial)

Last year, millennials surpassed Gen Xers as the largest generation in the U.S. workforce. As a result, more and more millennials are being pushed into managerial positions without fully knowing how to manage co-workers their own age.


How To Manage Millennials (When YOU’RE A Millennial)

Transitioning into a management role can be difficult, especially when you’re managing your peers. While it might take some time to get comfortable in your new position, being proactive and starting on the right foot will help you succeed. Here are a few ways to manage millennials when you are, in fact, a millennial.

Pay attention.

When you move into a management role, it’s important to constantly pay attention to what’s happening around you at the office. Now, that doesn’t mean you should stick your nose where it doesn’t belong or drive yourself crazy wondering what people think of you now that you’re officially managing them. It means you need to listen to your peers, make yourself available to them, and pay attention to any concerns they might have during the transition. Ready Set Rocket, a digital marketing agency, claims that millennials make up 82% of its staff. According to Lauren Nutt Bello, Partner and VP of Client Services at the agency (and a millennial herself), it’s critical to establish early on that, even though you’re in a leadership position now, your team’s feedback is valued and appreciated. In addition to being observant, be proactive. Don’t just wait for them seek you out when they have something to say. “Don't always wait for them to come to you,” said Bello. “Pay attention to verbal and nonverbal cues, and reach out to them to get their opinion or just to see how they're doing.”

Add value where you can, but don’t overstep your bounds.

Being promoted above your peers can be awkward at first. And, while some of your co-workers will be easier to manage than others, it’s imperative to remember that you were placed in your new role for a reason. “Many people view age as an important qualifier for leadership positions, which can make managing team members that are the same age or older than you difficult,” said Bello. In order to alleviate some of that tension, Bello suggests reflecting on your strengths and how you can support to your team, while understanding when your input might be less valuable. “The best leaders step in when they can make a real difference, and know when to step back when they can't,” she said.

Help them grow.

Encouraging growth is one thing, but showing others HOW to develop is another. You might not realize it, but the people you manage might not really know what they want to do next. And, if they do, they might not know how to get there. Although the members of her team are excited to develop, broaden their knowledge, and get more exposure to the things they are passionate about, Bello said that she finds many millennials don’t know how to grow because they don’t have a “canned” development plan in place to help them. So, how can you help your team grow? But your mentor hat on, and coach them. How did you grow? What steps did you take? Why? Think about your own experience, and find creative ways to help your team develop. “This type of managerial effort is the difference between meeting quotas and functioning, and retaining passionate employees who feel that they’re working somewhere that is invested in their personal success,” said Bello.

Set clear expectations.

Many employees say their main source of anxiety lies in not knowing where they stand with their boss, and their boss' assessment of their performance, according to Bello. “The biggest misses are almost always centered around misalignment and lack of clear expectations,” said Bello. “When your employees know where they stand with you, they are more focused and productive.” Make it a priority from the get-go to articulate what you expect from your team. On the flip side, make it a point to understand what they expect or need from you in order to meet expectations and reach their own goals.

Understand how your actions influence your team.

As a leader, knowing how your behavior affects your team and setting boundaries is critical. While you should be available to them when you need to be, you also need to set an example and show them when it’s time to “shut off” work (and vice versa). “As a millennial boss, you yourself have to balance connectivity,” says Bello. “If you send a 1am email, or email constantly from a vacation, you need to understand the implications of that on your team. It’s the modern equivalent of everyone feeling like they couldn’t go home until the boss did.”

Allow your team to take a break.

Jumping off of the previous tip, it’s important to give your employees a chance to “check out.” As a manager, your responsibility is to support the members of your team so they can succeed. If your employees are constantly “on,” it’s easier for them to burn out, which stifles productivity and creativity. According to Bello, disconnecting from work is harder for millennials to accomplish because they’ve been constantly connected since the first day of their careers, thanks to smartphones. This is a stark contrast from previous generations who were able to really “check out” when they left the office. So, be aware of how you’re structuring work. Allow your team to have a weekend and take a real vacation without disrupting work flow. Stepping into a management role can be intimidating (especially when you’re forced to manage people you’re own age), but it’s can also be a very rewarding experience that allows you develop into a better leader. If you can learn how to manage millennials as a millennial, you will gain the respect and authority you need to continue climbing the ladder.

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