How to Manage the Millennial Dad

By Hannah L. Ubl, Lisa X. Walden, Debra Arbit

Millennials dads are a large part of today’s workplace. In recent years, very pro-woman and pro-man movements have coincided with gender-equality initiatives and the movement to redefine what it means to “be a man.”

On one hand, this has put Millennial men in a place of confusion — when the labor economy changed to a service economy, the physical strength and resulting demeanor that had played a heavy hand in other men’s successes no longer mattered. Millennial men continue to find their footing but in the meantime are becoming fathers who aim to act a little less like their own fathers.

What the Millennial dad looks like

Much like Millennial moms, Millennial dads are finding their niches online with blogs like Fatherly and groups of friends. To get an idea of what he looks like, here are a few clues:

  • He splits his time. In many Millennials’ households, Mom managed the house and Dad managed the finances. He came home late to dinner on the table and children who were already showered and fed, ready to be tucked in for the night. These kind of traditional gender roles are still prevalent, but the outside world is tremoring with mindsets that embrace all kinds of changes. He is spending five more hours a week with his kid compared to dads in 1995, says a report in The Atlantic.
  • He’s resourceful. When a younger dad is trying to understand how to do something or figure out the way to fix that thing that broke that no one can fix, he can always go back to his toolbox, where he was told to find a solution. And if he can’t find a solution there, then he needs to build it.

“I think sometimes it’s all about being busy. Workplaces put so much emphasis on hours worked that there is less home time.” — Bethany B., Millennial

  • He’s stuck in a changing world. While lots of things have changed on the home front and dads are now washing dishes and painting their daughter’s toenails, the workplace has somewhat lagged behind when it comes to serving them. Typically, managers are still more likely to understand if a woman asks for a flex schedule or needs to take time off to take a kid to a doctor appointment. Dads can often feel stuck between a rock (their spouse/kids) and a hard place (their boss).

How you can best manage him

As you strive to balance managing both Millennial moms and dads, keep in mind these tips for the dads specifically:

  • Assume that they’re fighting for flexibility just like mom.
  • Don’t take their loyalty for granted.
  • Don’t downplay how hard fatherhood is.
  • Be an example.

Adapting the workplace for a new brand of Millennial parent

Regardless of whether you are a mom or dad in any kind of relationship, single or coupled, and regardless of your generation, being a parent is tough. Being a full-time worker and a full-time parent can be even harder, but you know that. To adapt to this younger generation of parents, heed this advice:

  • Have a standard parental leave, not maternal and/or paternal. As paternal leave becomes more normal, recognize that focusing on one parent’s gender in the relationship is non-inclusive to every relationship and doesn’t serve anyone well. There’s a reason that Americans look to other countries like Norway and Denmark, who give ample time to recover after having a child. The Department of Labor reported in the United States that more than 25 percent of women return to work after only two weeks. Maybe that’s too fast. And perhaps, oh perhaps, parental leave will assist in those changes.
  • Review flexibility policies. If your flexibility expectations are set, then they’re set! Just allow yourself the flexibility to reexamine them on a regular basis to ensure that you’re providing a work environment that works for everyone.

As much as parents in the workplace need flexibility, don’t forget that their needs do not trump those of others who may not have children. This is an easy trap to fall into, especially if you are a parent yourself. It can feel perfectly acceptable to grant flexibility to an employee with a sick kid at home but scoff at the person who wants to work from home because he is having renovations done on his cool downtown condo. Fair is fair.

  • Celebrate parenthood, don’t ignore it. It wasn’t too long ago that women had to hide their pregnancies and keep them secret for fear of getting fired or treated differently. As a manager, celebrate new mothers and fathers for the changes in their lives, and take a genuine interest in so far as they want to discuss those lives.