Top 7 Keys to Managing Millennials in the Workplace

Quote of the Week

“If human beings are perceived as potentials rather than problems, as possessing strengths instead of weaknesses, as unlimited rather than dull and unresponsive, then they thrive and grow to their capabilities.”
— Bob Conklin

Top 7 Keys to Managing Millennials in the Workplace

by Gretchen Neels

The workplace isn’t what it used to be. Prior to 1998, there were essentially three generations working together with a reasonable degree of harmony. While Traditionalists, Baby Boomers and Gen Xers are certainly distinct and each has their pluses and minuses, there didn’t seem to be the level of acrimony among them that exists now that the Millennials have arrived. Also known as Gen-Y, New Professionals and Nexters, these young people born between 1980 and 2000 have had a profound impact on the workplace environment in the short time they’ve been working. And we’ve got a long way to go. Ask any HR professional if he or she has noticed a difference in attitude, expectations, work ethic and social skills with the new generation and you’ll get an ear full.

Many clients have asked me for help in assimilating Millennials into their companies. The major complaints seem to center around three areas: work ethic, expectations, and communication. They are also seen as quick to jump ship if things don’t go their way. Solutions to many of these problems, as I see it, must begin with management developing and improving their levels of understanding, empathy and patience. But it’s not all one-sided. Young Professionals need to understand what is expected of them, what their career paths realistically look like and how they can move forward, as well as how best to communicate with their manager.

Below are seven tips for managers to get along better with the younger generation:

  1. Take an interest in your young worker. Many managers make the mistake of being “all business” with these young people. They are used to having parents, teachers and coaches being interested in them. You will do well to ask about their lives outside of work in a friendly, conversational tone.
  2. Be sure to give plenty of feedback often. This generation requires more input and commentary on their performance than all the other generations before them. They will not wait for a semi-annual or annual review. Set aside time weekly to check in with your Millennial and give positive, constructive feedback as often as you can.
  3. When delivering negative feedback, start with something positive. Overlooking this step can do a lot of damage to a relationship. This generation has grown up being told they can do and be anything, and be the best at whatever they choose. Here is an example of opening a difficult conversation: “Jennifer, your numbers were up in the first quarter, and you did a great job closing three major accounts, but your sales figures for Q2 and Q3 are not acceptable. Let’s talk about what’s going on and how I can help you succeed.”
  4. Try a little empathy. This generation worries a lot about sky-high housing prices, school and consumer debt and the ability to have a balanced work/family life. By showing empathy about their situations, you begin to establish trust.
  5. Connect with parents. More and more companies are connecting with parents of the Millennial generation via their websites. Remember, this generation looks to their parents when considering big and small decisions. By including parents in small ways, you will win them over, as well as their offspring. Many companies I work with balk at this until they see how successful this no-cost outreach can be.
  6. Make things crystal clear. Millennials are used to following directions (think gaming here). Clarity on all processes, especially how they will move up in the company, is essential. Communicating clearly from the beginning can save enormous amounts of time and energy. For example, if you want your new sales person to send out thank-you notes to their customers after a visit, be sure you tell them that is your expectation and why it’s important. What may seem glaringly obvious to you isn’t always so with this group.
  7. Focus on what they are good at. This group is energetic, bright, and fearless, and multi-task better than anyone. They are technologically savvy and are used to a 24/7 environment. Instead of complaining about the ways in which this group differs from past generations, use their strengths to your advantage.

Gretchen Neels, Neels & Company – Strategic Business Communication – email: We assist clients with improving individual and organizational performance. Please visit our website at

Coaching Call to Action

If you are a manager/leader in an organization and feeling the challenges of working with Millenials, Getchen’s article provides some sage advice. Actually, what she recommends sounds like a great way to treat all generations. I found the last line critically important no matter who you are managing/leading, “Instead of complaining. . ., use their strengths to your advantage.” This week look at your direct reports and teams and consider how you can best utilize their strengths.