Millennials are people too

I’m trying to make sure this doesn’t become a rant but it’s becoming increasingly difficult to avoid.

The reason I’m so aggravated is that I cannot believe the amount of time devoted to analysing, commenting on and advising how different millennials are. I’ve even seen a LinkedIn profile where the individual described themselves as a “Millennial Engagement Expert”… seriously?!

The essence of most of this commentary on millennials is that they are, somehow, special. So special that they need to be managed differently to the rest of us.

There is an awful lot of text (and unflattering memes) devoted to describing them as “snowflakes”, depicting them as lazy, workshy and over sensitive. In my experience this is bulls**t.

I know millennials who are incredibly focussed and work 60/70 hours a week. I also know people in their 40’s (I’m sure there’s a collective noun for them as well but it doesn’t spring to mind so readily) who are unreliable and masters at work avoidance.

Labelling a group of people in such a way is lazy and dangerous because people make assumptions based upon it and act according to their assumptions.

Can you imagine the reaction if someone posted that women in the workplace are more sensitive than men so need to be managed differently? Or that gay men are more creative so an admin role probably won’t suit them? I thought that sort of stereotyping was deemed unacceptable a long time ago, but it appears that it’s okay to do it provided the stereotyping is based on age, and not all ages… just millennials.

Every generation has been criticised by the generation before. The usual topics are how they dress, their taste in music, their work ethic or the good old staple of “you don’t know how easy you’ve got it”. Somehow the criticism and stereotyping of the millennial generation has gone a stage further and become commonplace and acceptable.

When it comes to management in the workplace there is only one group that managers and organisations need to consider… people. The problem is that every person is different. It’s not about grouping them together and thinking “I’ll manage those in this way and that lot in another way”, it’s about understanding each person individually.

So, instead of managing people by category ensure you do these five things, with everyone, all the time, if you want your team to perform:

Understand each individual

Knowing their birthday and partners name is nice but far less important than understanding what they want from their work.

Discuss their motivation

In my training programmes I regularly ask how often the attendees have had a proper, in depth conversation, initiated by their boss, about what motivates them. The most common answer to that question, by a mile, is never.

Give constructive feedback

Make sure it’s precise, accurate and explains why something was good/bad. Praise is great but without context it has no lasting effect. Criticism without explanation breeds contempt and resentment.

Be honest with them

No-one expects the boss to be perfect. If you’re not sure about their abilities or motivation then tell them and ask them to fill in the gaps. If you’re not sure how to deal with something, ask their advice.


But do it properly and make sure the other person knows you’ve listened. Just because you’ve heard what they have to say doesn’t mean you have to act on it but, if you don’t, at least you’ll understand their point of view and be able to explain why things are going to be done differently to how they’d like. Simply issuing orders without ever taking the team’s opinion into account is probably the quickest way I know to reduce motivation and eliminate goodwill.