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What Every Company Needs to Know About Millenial Managers

Originally posted on Coach Federation in June 2017

By 2030 Millennials will make up 50 percent of the global workforce, and every day more of their members are eligible to become supervisors, managers, and bosses.

The only problem is, they don’t want to.

At least, not in the usual sense. Reports show that younger workers are less interested in managing people and more interested in things like job mobility and becoming “knowledge experts.”

But in fact, Millennials aren’t unwilling to lead, they just want to do it differently. As a leadership coach, you are in a position to help established managers understand what “differently” means and help bring about a constructive transition from one management generation to the next.

Here’s what every company needs to understand about Millennial managers:

They Want to be Leaders, not Bosses

As Kate Rodriguez explains, “Many Millennials are simply not interested in being in charge of others. Rather, they want to be in charge of their own careers, as freelancers or employees with an ‘I work for me’ mentality.”

Yet in a work environment based increasingly on teams, most Millennials have had experience with incremental and impromptu leadership from the beginning. In fact, many think of themselves as leaders already.

Coaches should encourage senior managers to look at what their Millennial employees have accomplished already. Make a list of new potential managers within the department and name specific projects in which they’ve been involved. Who has taken on leadership roles? What did they do well? Where did they struggle?

These observations provide cues for future management styles. They also demonstrate how the management hierarchy can be “flattened” to include a broader range of individuals.

They’re Never Off the Clock

Many young people who came of age in a rough economy are used to hustling before and after hours. Even with a steady job, Millennials facing stagnating wages are likely to be seeking alternative sources of income.

Besides being natural freelancers, Millennials are accustomed to mobile technology and constant communication. Together, these attributes make for an open-ended work life, which affects how they will manage and be managed in the office.

Coaches can work with managers by laying out different scheduling scenarios and finding ways to make management more flexible. Start by asking about the company’s regular scheduling practices. Now throw in some disruptions: What if an employee asks to take time for an independent project? How about an employee who is a new mother and needs to come into the office later in the day?

Talk through some ways of accommodating these lifestyle variables. Can working from home, utilizing different off-day patterns, or shifting work to mobile platforms help the company meet its employees’ needs better? By asking these questions, you’re already starting to think more like a Millennial manager.

They Think Like a Startup

What defines a startup mentality? You try different things and toss out what doesn’t work. Whether the company in question is actually a startup or a traditional business or corporation, its Millennial employees are likely to take a more experimental approach to projects, taking risks and drawing ideas from all quarters.

Talk with company leaders about how they measure a project’s success or an individual’s performance. Now pose the question: is it possible to replace any of these subjective measurements with hard metrics? Doing so will help to eliminate focus on personalities and job titles and refocus on what works. When it comes, for instance, to performance reviews, young managers are already doing this.

They Need Mentors (Even if They Don’t Know It)

Of course, the intense creativity and adaptability of Millennials has its downside. Older colleagues (many of whom may end up reporting to Millennials) often find their younger counterparts to be arrogant or unrealistic when trying to quickly change the company or the department.

The knowledge and patience to manage effectively comes with experience. As a coach, consider asking company leaders to create a document intended for new managers. The document can be titled: “What I Wish I Would Have Known.” This should include some of the obstacles and frustrations inherent to the position, as well as aspects of the job that are conducive to changing and improving the company.

Even if participants don’t actually hand over these documents to incoming managers, it will help clarify for them what needs to be communicated to the next generation of management—a generation that both coaches and company leaders want to succeed.


The information above can be used to start a conversation between coaches and company leaders. Companies need to appreciate the talent they already have in the wings—and a new class of Millennial managers is about to make that very clear.