Managing Millennials For Dummies
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If differences in generational perspectives create hardships in the workplace, then surely a Millennial managing a fellow Millennial should be a pretty carefree working relationship, void of misalignments that commonly occur when a different generation manages a Millennial. In some ways, it’s kind of a twin thing. They were raised in similar environments, listened to the same boy bands, shared awkward AIM screen names, and graduated from college into an anything-but-booming economic environment. Surely, they have each others’ backs.

For the most part, they do. Though certainly not free from the normal working challenges that come along when any humans work together, there does appear to be some synchronicity between the Millennial manager and the Millennial employee. There isn’t quite as big a gap to bridge in terms of communication, working preferences, perceptions around technology, and what work ethic looks like.

The Millennial manager champion embraces his best Millennial traits and uses them as a connection point with his employee. Alternatively, the typecaster Millennial manager rejects any blatant “Millennial-ness,” which can result in friction and especially harsh feedback to her fellow Millennial reports. Check out the following descriptions for these two types of bosses:

  • The champion Millennial boss: Great Millennial managers make good use of the common ground. They’re ready to give frequent feedback because they know that’s what they would want. They entertain flexible work arrangements because flexibility is something they also value highly, and results are what really matter anyway. Opportunities to collaborate, both in the workplace and in team-building, are built into the day-to-day.

The best of the Millennial champions aren’t just interested in connecting with their direct reports but also actively invest in grooming their skills for the future. They don’t let them coast just because they’re fellow Millennials. Standards are kept high and assignments are challenging, but encouragement is free-flowing and the manager uses that shared common ground to develop and grow the employee.

  • The typecaster Millennial boss: The potentially less successful Millennial managers fall in line with the “I’m-not-a-Millennial” Millennials. Because it’s been hammered into their heads so often, they, too, hold this idea that all Millennials are entitled brats, and they want to do everything they can to set themselves apart from the negative qualities that make up a Millennial.

Because of this, when they see Millennial traits in those they manage, they laugh at the irony and are determined not to encourage these “failings.” To put it a bit harshly, these bosses soak up the traits of the Boomer and Xer typecaster managers and turn them on one of their own.

Take a look at the following table for more on becoming a champion and avoiding being a typecaster.
Tips on How to Be a Millennial Champion Ways to Avoid Being a Millennial Typecaster
Use shared ground as a point of connection. Reassess your perception of the word “Millennial” and what that entails.
Be a Millennial advocate with the older generations. Take a deep breath before reacting when a “classical Millennial” moment happens.
Hold them to a high standard of continuous improvement. Own the positive Millennial qualities as a manager to lead by example.

Unleashing the power of the Millennial-Millennial relationship

Twins have a special relationship, and sometimes it’s almost as if they can read each other’s minds. We’re not going to suggest Millennial managers can guess what their direct reports are thinking, but because they share the same generational perspective, they can easily put themselves in their direct report’s shoes. Two areas where Millennial managers shine with fellow Millennials are coaching and balancing work-family life.

Skill coaching

What’s a quick way to get a Millennial to disengage? Don’t invest in growing his skills. Millennial managers know this more than anyone. They benefited from someone who pegged them as a high-potential future leader and are reaping the benefits. Not everyone can be a leader, but everyone should be invested in to see what his skills might grow into. These managers take the time to customize their training approaches to each of their employees, and they promote skill-building to show that they believe in their employee.


The line between work and personal life is getting increasingly blurred. Millennial managers understand this concept and know that their people aren’t going to want to engage in a strictly professional environment that doesn’t promote authentic relationships with the people they spend 40+ hours a week with. They keep a keen watch on not just the day-to-day operational factors of the day, but also regularly feed the team-building goal.

Find your strength

Tap into your natural Millennial manager strengths by
  • Creating spaces for collaboration and teamwork
  • Being careful not to spill over into favoritism with your Millennial employees
  • Leading with the customization penchant to manage your Millennials for their distinct needs and preferences
  • Promoting positive conversations and understanding of Millennial employees among other managers

Easing challenges of managing someone in your own generation

Think about the twin relationship. Your twin (let’s say identical twin in this case) is in many ways a reflection of who you are. Looking at your twin is like looking into a mirror. When typecaster Millennial managers look into this mirror, something strange happens. Instead of taking in the reflection, flaws and strengths alike, some sort of dysmorphia happens and all they’re able to see is the negative, especially with the following sentiments.


“I’m not you” is essentially the sentiment here. The Millennial manager wants nothing to do with the Millennial qualities and is unwilling to do what she sees as indulging the worst of her generation’s behavior. In an effort to balance things out, she can go too far in the opposite direction. She becomes inaccessible to her direct report and can feel cold and unfamiliar.

“I’m your age, but I’m your BOSS”

Another weird thing you might see when Millennials manage others in their same age range is the need to prove, beyond a shadow of a doubt, that the manager is the boss, in charge, and the leader. The impetus for this is an attempt to establish authority in a relationship that might fall into a “Hey, you’re around my age; we could be friends so I’ll treat you like one” mentality.

Preemptively fighting against this possibility, Millennials throw on the starchy “I’m your boss” shirt and effectively fend off any opportunity to build an authentic, strong relationship with their report. While this issue shows up with all generations, it can be even more prevalent for Millennials who are more likely to blend the lines between colleague and friend than other generations.

“[My coworkers and I] are all in the same age range. I was on a team and promoted to lead people who were mostly my co-workers. [It’s] my, ‘friend versus manager challenge.’” —Kelly O., Manager

Prevent pitfalls

Avoid potential Millennial manager pitfalls by
  • Figuring out what Millennial traits are actually disruptive and communicating with/coaching your direct reports on how to improve
  • Demonstrating your authority not by coldly shutting off but by showing your expertise in coaching new skills and offering valuable feedback
  • Leading with humility first
  • Learning about those around you to inform the way you approach them as individuals

About This Article

This article is from the book:

About the book authors:

Hannah L. Ubl is the Research Director at BridgeWorks and transforms data into stories for the masses. Lisa X. Walden is the Communications Director at BridgeWorks where she delivers compelling, breakthrough generational content. Debra Arbit is CEO of BridgeWorks: a generational consulting company (

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