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Are Millennials Difficult to Manage?


As millennials become the majority of the workforce, do business leaders need to change their management style?

Do a quick Internet search for terms like “millennials and management” and you’re bound to find a glut of information (there are three recent examples in this article alone). Everything from surveys and research to op-eds and personal experience pieces all claiming to have the best way to manage millennials in the workplace. The sheer amount of content out there on this topic is enough to make anyone believe millennials are a nightmare to manage, but are we really all that different from everyone else?

Actually, there’s a lot of evidence to say that we’re just like previous generations. Some millennials will be content to work a traditional career ladder, while others are more impatient. Personally, I don’t think there is a trick to managing millennials, but there may be less tolerance for traditional management styles built for 40 to 50 year career tracks, when someone stayed at the same company for their entire professional lives. Millennial might be having a difficult time finding meaningful work, but that doesn’t mean they will stick it out at a job that makes them miserable. So while millennials aren’t difficult to manage, changing management styles to be more fluid might be one key to a thriving millennial workforce. Here are a few ideas.

Feedback is Critical

The Harvard Business Review recently ran an article highlighting a study that showed, among other things, millennials want feedback 50 percent more than other employees. Understandably, who wants to wait around for a yearly performance review or even longer, to find out they should be improving in certain areas. The same study showed less than 50 percent of respondents agreed their managers met their expectations for feedback. Personally, I believe honest and timely feedback can lead to a more productive workforce.

Communication Doesn’t Have to be Digital

Before sending an email ask yourself, is this message absolutely necessary? Stopping to read an email takes time and takes you out of the work your already doing. We’ve already covered this on The Reply but it’s difficult to overstate — find ways around office emails, hold smaller, more constructive team meetings, or foster an environment of conversation with your team. Who wouldn’t rather chat about a problem than read a chain of one-line replies in their inbox?

Check Your Stereotypes at the Door

We’re all guilty of making snap judgements but painting all millennials employees the same - often as entitled, for example (thanks, Time) - doesn’t help. Millennials are facing some of the toughest job conditions ever, so we are looking for all the help we can get to succeed at work. There are always exceptions — entitled millennials exist — but it certainly doesn’t mean it’s the norm. Unfortunately, it’s difficult to break old habits and sometimes outside help such as management consultants can be beneficial. For example, in this article by Entrepreneur.com (via The Globe and Mail) consultants are helping businesses update their long-standing management practices and ditching mediocre managers, all to retain the young, millennial talent they want.

Millennials aren’t difficult to manage, we’re simply trying to adapt to traditional work environments that perhaps haven’t quite evolved with the times. As millennials take over leadership positions in business, hopefully this will begin to change.

What are your tips for managing millennials? Leave your thoughts in the comments below.


Christopher is Co-Founder and Managing Editor at The Reply. He has a fondness for strong coffee, good books and foreign news services. When he was five years old his father helped him raise a family of chipmunks over the winter, you should ask him about it. Professionally, he’s spent time as a technology journalist, PR consultant, and freelance blogger. Christopher’s work has appeared in a lot of trade magazines you’ve probably never heard of and maybe some you have. He has a B.A. in Political Science from the University of Toronto and a certificate in Media Foundations from Humber College in Toronto.