Managing Millennials

By: Ta'Nia Wright

Dear ‘millennials’ and those who manage you:

I know you get a hard time for being part of this young generation, “The Millennials.” I’ve personally had the, ahem, sometimes unfortunate pleasure of managing many of you over the last ten years. Instead of ranting about the problems and challenges I’ve experienced with millennial employees and the differences between managing you, Gen Xers, and Baby Boomers, I thought instead I would do something constructive and let you in on a few secrets that will help you gain more respect for both yourself and your generation. You get a bad rap for your supposedly poor work ethic and sense of entitlement, but perhaps you’re just misunderstood – I’m willing to give you the benefit of the doubt. So, let’s begin:

My generation (Generation X) is undoubtedly different to yours. We come to work on time, we actually care about impressing our boss and most of all, we work hard to advance in the workplace.

How I wish I could say the same for you! I am afraid to say that some of you have a completely different work ethic. Some of you don’t work hard at all, and most don’t have a clear idea of what a strong work ethic actually involves. As far as advancing in the workplace goes, I get the strong impression that many of you believe it is something that should just be handed to you because you’ve held a certain position for a certain amount of time – not because you’ve actually earned it.

From my experience as a manager, I think there are two types of millennials:

1) The ones that work hard and give it their all (usually children of Generation Xers).

2) The ones that are lazy, have no motivation, no drive, no ambition, and believe their job is beneath them – really, they’re destined to be the next Mark Zuckerberg or Steve Jobs, if only someone would recognize their genius!

Wait, you’re probably saying. You said you were going to give us tips, not rant about us! So let’s get to the meaty part. I’ve found that to bring out the best in my millennial employees, there’s an effective system I can use that I call GROW. So what’s GROW?

G- Goal R- Reality O- Options W- Way Forward

Later on I plan to go more into more detail about GROW, but for now I'll give a small definition of what it is and what it kind of entails.

When you grow your employee you are either coaching them for breakthrough or coaching for engagement. Breakthrough means getting your employee to that next level of advancement - usually they are almost there, but we as managers can provide them with the missing tools they need to make the leap to a position of more responsibility.

Managers coach for engagement when their employee is lacking the basic skills to complete his or her task effectively. As a manager you need to try to engage them to become better at their job. When you coach for engagement, one of two things will happen: your employee will become engaged at work, learn the skills they’re lacking, and will perform better; or your employee will give up and leave his or her job (and probably make everyone else's life easier when they do.)

I have faith that you millennials will rise to the occasion, because you certainly possess some beautiful and creative minds; and for you managers, continue to use GROW and practice tons of patience, and hopefully you’ll soon see the payoff.