3 Things Your Millennial Leader Doesn’t Want to Hear


Millennials have been active in the workforce some time now, and they are moving into management and leadership roles in government and in private sector. With the advent of the millennial leader, expect changes. A new generation almost always means new rules. If you have a millennial for a boss, you might be noticing changes in your work environment already. But there’s nothing to fear – even these millennial leaders can be managed up. Here are three things your millenial leader doesn’t want to hear.

1) “That’s how we’ve always done it.” If there is one thing millennial leaders have been hearing their whole federal careers, it’s this: “But we’ve always done it like that.” Unsurprisingly, that answer may not get you far with your millennial manager. Instead of resorting to this explanation, try explaining the same process differently. For example, from a risk management standpoint, you might say, “We have experience using method A, method B would take considerable time to learn and implement.” Why? Millennials have come of age in a time when answers can be found and compared to other alternatives in a matter of minutes. Everything can be researched, measured and comes with multiple recommendations from peers. Many of us research and compare everything from smartphones to suitors. The answer that something has always been done a certain way can be perceived as laziness or a manifest lack of creativity in problem-solving. Your millenial leader may end up accepting a tried-and-true process after all, but you should be prepared to explain why it has value.

2) “We don’t share that.” In an age of constant information exchange, millennials have sharing in their DNA. From crowd funding to keeping track of friends and family, they see the value of it every day. That’s not to say that they don’t also understand the risks. Data breaches, account hacks, and indiscreet public data dumps are everyday realities for this connected generation. Many are keenly aware of trade-offs between security and information sharing. Not sharing information has a risk too – redundancy and waste, among others. Expect to have a well-defined reason for why some information is or is not to be shared.

3) “So you are the social media expert?” Understand the generational differences…but don’t generalize. Surely, there are some broad differences between the various generations. Lots of studies have been done to tease them out. Be cognizant of how your millenial leader may differ from you, but she or he is still an individual – don’t assume they live their lives on social media, eat pizza every night, and can’t balance a checkbook. My colleagues of earlier generations are generally shocked when I tell them I listen to Johnny Cash and don’t have a Snapchat account. Believe it or not, we are a pretty diverse group among ourselves, and can probably relate to you better than you think. Try leveling with your millennial boss. You will be surprised by the common ground you find.

Millennial leaders are clearly here to stay – from the private sector to government. That’s a good thing. A multi-generational workforce can be a very rewarding, creative, and collaborative environment. The key to working well with your millennial leader is similar to working well with any leader: understand her or him as an individual, translate your experience to their perspective, and stay flexible.

Are you a millennial leader or do you work with one? Share your experience in the comments.

Crystal Winston is part of the GovLoop Featured Blogger program, where we feature blog posts by government voices from all across the country (and world!). To see more Featured Blogger posts, click here.

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