Advice for Employers and Recruiters

How Millennial managers are different

Anna Peters AvatarAnna Peters
January 23, 2017


Contributing writer Ted Bauer

When Millennials become managers of others, what can we expect? How do they manage differently?

We’ve been managing in similar ways for generations now (maybe as far back as 1911), but in the last few years, Millennials have overtaken Baby Boomers as America’s largest generation. Right this second, being younger and all, Millennials aren’t running many companies yet. But they are managing: some research says 62% of global workers have had a Millennial boss at least once. 

One important distinction here is that oftentimes, Millennials see themselves as leaders even if the job title doesn’t back that up. That was a key finding in a recent report from The Hartford. Here are a few other trends we see in Millennial managers:

The work-life balance issue: Millennials are known for demanding work-life balance, but when they become managers, they are actually struggling with work-life balanceBeing young, they might feel they have more to prove in a role, and thus feel more pressure or spend more time at work. Other research has backed this up, calling Millennials one of the biggest workaholic generations. If you work for a Millennial who spends 12 hours+ per day at work and you feel the need to match or exceed that, this aspect of Millennial managers could be a con.

Less command and control. More collaboration: This is a big theme of Millennial managers, with the common logic being that they grew up in more group activities — and thus feel comfortable in that setting. This is a very good thing, as one study has shown command and control management styles are literally taking years off people’s lives. 

The decline of the Spreadsheet Mentality: “The Spreadsheet Mentality” is a management focus on KPIs and numbers to almost the exclusion of all else. By contrast, a 2016 study by Deloitte of 7,700 Millennials found that 64% (the highest bracket) make decisions off personal values and morals. “Meeting growth goals and revenue targets” was No. 5 for Millennial managers vs. No. 1 for Baby Boomer managers.

The performance review may die: People have been clamoring for the end of performance reviews for years — everyone hates them — but Millennials, who mostly came of age in an on-demand economy (think Uber) may finally be the people to get rid of the concept.

Salary transparency: This has been an issue for generations, and especially has negative repercussions for women and minorities. Millennial managers may change it, and make salaries and bonuses essentially public. Buffer, a social media startup in the Bay Area, is one example of a company with totally transparent salaries internally.

Care more about others: If you reference the “Spreadsheet Mentality” idea above, it tends to dehumanize people at work in favor of defining them by KPIs or goals achieved. Millennials may be the generation of managers who get back to treating people more as people. This isn’t necessarily to say that hierarchy will die out (it probably won’t) or that people won’t have bosses who hold them accountable to goals (they will), but we probably will see a greater shift towards empathetic management styles.

There are both pros and cons here. Old-school management types might look at some of these Millennial predictions and think it’s a little “soft,” for example. However, Millennials who run companies should ultimately make for an interesting workforce. 

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