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young Gen Y Millennial manager and leader

5 tips to better manage Millennial managers



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This is the part where I give away my age… I am a Millennial.

Well, just. Depending on where you measure the year of birth from, I fall just inside the Gen Y block, although I have always considered myself to be a pretty blended mix of the stereotypes from both Gen Y and Gen X.

For example, I do not consider myself a special little snowflake who expects all my demands to be taken care of simply because I am young (ish) and part of a group that older generations are all relying on to lead us in the future, i.e. the “Me, Me, Me Generation”. However, I am somewhat dangerously connected to my iPhone and yearn for instant gratification (although, this could just be due to my impatient nature) and recognition, like many Gen Ys.

Put it this way: If you ask me to jump, I”ll probably ask “why?” (like a typical Gen Y) before leaping into the air anyway and asking you afterwards, “was that good enough?” (like a typical Gen X).

Now that we’ve established my rough age, I’d like to draw attention to something else: I am also a manager.

In my role here at Human Resources, and in previous roles, I have managed other people. I have managed those who are younger than me, the same age as me, and those who are older than me. There are people out there who think I’m too young to be doing what I’m doing and are surprised, while others simply expect it.

Why? Because let’s face it – more and more Millennials are stepping up into management positions. It makes sense, too, if you look at the typical (and yes, generalised) stereotypes we embody: We’re driven, we multitask, we’re connected, we’re tech-savvy, we stand up for what we believe in, we like to collaborate, we like to be open and honest with people and we are interested in what the future holds for us and those around us.

Do these sweeping generalisations sound like traits you want in a manager? I think so.

So, because I’m a Millennial and because I’m also a manager, I’m going to give you a few pieces of advice when it comes to managing people like me.

1. Don’t be afraid to push us hard. We know we’re not perfect.

Despite what you all might think about Generation Y believing we’re the bees knees and that we ‘know it all’ because we’ve grown up in a world where information is available anywhere, at any time, I’ll let you in on a secret: We don’t know shit.

Seriously. We get by because we’re resourceful and hungry for information, but all this confidence you see in us? It’s there as a self-fulfilling prophecy. It’s the if I act confident, I will be confident mentality and it’s what we need to do to ensure we make our mark. Maybe this comes across as seeming entitled, but we need to do as much growing and learning and falling down as any generation before us – we’re just less likely to admit it.

The young managers who will go places are the ones willing to work hard and listen to your constructive criticism (this is why we love feedback so much.) So don’t be afraid to give it us straight, we need it.

2. We won’t respond well to people who yell, are pushy and who bully

Despite everything I just said about giving it straight, don’t be a dick about it. We want to learn, but we don’t necessarily want to be told what to do every minute of every day – why do you think there are so many more entrepreneurs today than ever before? We like being our own bosses.

Sure, we need the guidance of mentors and our bosses – absolutely – but we also want to figure it out for ourselves (or at least be led to believe that’s what happened). Screaming at us will get you nowhere and will just make the urge to job hop even stronger than it already might be.

3. We care about perks, but we care about culture more

Don’t get me wrong, perks like fully-stocked kitchens and gym memberships are something we’ll happily snap up, but where Gen Xers are motivated by structure and routine, Gen Ys are motivated by flexibility and an environment where we can feel free to leave our desks and go take a walk if we need to.

I know, this probably drives you mad, but we have a really strong desire to make our place of work a more interesting place. After all, we’re here all the damn time, the least we can do is figure out how to blend it in with our personal lives in a manageable manner. It makes us nicer people to work with and more likely to seriously contribute to the bigger picture, thus managing staff better.

4. We have a different understanding about what constitutes progress

No wait, this is probably what drives you mad the most. But it’s a really, really interesting difference:

1. Millennials think really fast and get things done fast, because we’re conditioned to a world where things move fast, fast, fast.

2. This means Millennials might come to you with projects half done (in your view, anyway).

Why? Because to Gen Ys, it’s not half complete. We’re showing you our process – a prototype, if you will – and we want your feedback and encouragement along the way. Are we going in the right direction? What are your thoughts so far?

Gen Xers want to be delivered a finished product which they can then take apart and analyse, but to us this simply delays changes which might need to happen quicker.

5. We really do want to be trained, accelerate and transition

Your Millennial managers are going to do a better job at managing others if you can manage their own development expectations. Or, to put it simply, we want to be invested in.

Generally, I’ve found that when you set expectations for people, most tend to rise to them, and I think this is true of Gen Y managers. But we definitely want some sort of help and proof of investment that the company is making in us to be able to reach the goals you have set. It’s more than just sending us for management training – we want to the opportunity to learn from our peers, mentors and from people who do completely different jobs than us.

My fiancé, who runs his own PR and content marketing company (shameless plug), does this thing where every few weeks a different staff member has to plan and lead a one-hour training session. It might be something directly related to the work they do, or it could be something a bit more fun and left-field, like what someone has learned about branding from promoting their band.

This also promotes leadership through collaboration, which is a big YES in our books.

Yes, this overview has been pretty broad and from my point of view, but the main points remain relevant. Not every Gen Y will make a good manager, but by embracing these differences, faults and strengths you’ll see a shift in how your staff operate across the entire organisation, which can be an excellent catalyst for growth.

Image: Shutterstock

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Rebecca Lewis
Editor
Human Resources Magazine Singapore

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