Editors' pick: Originally published June 1.
Meet the new boss. She's half your age, listens to podcasts about closed down video stores on her way to work and says "woke" without referring to her alarm clock. She's a Millennial manager, and she's part of a cohort getting more common by the day.
For years, Millennials have been the staple youth of the workforce, recent college grads and junior employees just starting to work their way up the ladder. Lately things have changed. Millennials have gotten more common at the office, overtaking Generation X as the largest generation in the workforce, and they've gotten older. Many are now in their mid-30s, buying houses and starting families with people they met while flirting over AIM.
And, increasingly, they're in charge.
According to the consulting firm Workplace Trends, 83% of employees have worked with a Millennial manager at some point, while outlets such as Paradereport that a full quarter of the generation has reached leadership roles in their companies. Globally a whopping 62% of under-35s are in positions where they supervise the work of others. In other words, if you haven't worked for a millennial yet the odds are you soon will.
So what should you expect?
An eager leader...
According to a study by The Hartford Millennials don't just aspire to lead; they see it in themselves already. When asked, 80% said they already consider themselves leaders today, regardless of job title, while 69% said that they aspire to lead in the near future.
"That desire to lead from day one, and to see oneself, as a leader is quite different from previous generations" said Lindsey Pollak, a consultant with The Hartford and author of Becoming the Boss. "They see themselves as having leadership capabilities very early in their careers."
The upshot can be a confident manager who comes in ready to take charge.
It can also be a problem. For years as Millennials have integrated into the workplace, one of their defining epithets has been "entitlement." Older bosses and coworkers have found their younger colleagues pushy and eager to get ahead, and virtually every company of any size will have stories about the 20-something new hire who showed up already eager for a promotion.
Calling it "extraordinarily disruptive," Pollak said that employers need to remember that underneath the attitude is a real desire to make a difference.
"You can resent it," she said, "or you can see this as an opportunity, and see this as your younger workers wanting to have an impact."
The question of loyalty...
No experience has shaped the Millennial generation more than the Great Recession. It baked insecurity into the bones of virtually everyone who came of age in the mid-2000s and created a generation of job-hoppers who frustrate employers by their willingness to relocate every few years.
A summary by the consulting firm Deloitte seems to capture that spirit, writing that "Millennials, in general, express little loyalty to their current employers and many are planning near-term exits… This remarkable absence of allegiance represents a serious challenge to any business employing a large number of Millennials."
Employers need to keep in mind, though, as far as your 28-year-old manager is concerned, you started it.
"What happened during the Great Recession is on the minds of many Millennials," said Pollak. According to them, "companies broke the loyalty first by mass layoffs, by outsourcing, by falling apart in one day during the recession. In all sorts of ways there's this impression that a company is not going to keep you on no matter what."
It's an entirely different attitude from many Baby Boomers, who came of age during an era when many people would (and could) work their entire lives for a single corporation. Yet at the same time as their bosses are frustrated by the fact that a millennial manager keeps his resume updated, it creates a very different leadership style.
"They're less surprised at the lack of retention of their own millennial employees," Pollak said. "They don't take it personally. They understand that everyone is in some ways the CEO of their own career."
In a leadership role, Millennials understand job hopping, and encourage it even. Unlike other generations this is a boss who will get it when you say "I'm just looking to make a change," perhaps because he's thinking the same thing himself.
An emphasis on training and benefits...
Not long ago we wrote about the Coca-Cola Company's move to expand its parental leave policies. That decision didn't come out of nowhere. It was as a result of recommendations by the company's in-house Millennial leadership team.
Over and over, Millennials cite benefits and training as two of the most important things that an employer can offer, with The Hartford's survey alone finding 40% who urge that competitive benefits are critical to attracting the best employees.
In the workplace, this is a generation that wants a return to the kind of benefits that many companies have scaled back on in recent years, and once in charge they pursue that.
"I think there's a sense from previous generations that giving someone a good job was enough," said Pollak. "And I think that Millennial leaders in this day and age understand that it's not."
They believe that especially in an era where employment has grown more uncertain, employers have to offer more. Whether it's Coca-Cola's committee or the tech sector's unlimited vacation, Millennial managers emphasize benefits and training in an effort to keep employees happy.
"I talk to a lot of Millennial leaders and they say it's just not that hard," Pollak added. "I don't think they want anything fundamentally different than previous generations, I just think previous generations put up with it when they didn't get it."
A return to work-life balance, but with longer hours...
This is also a generation that prizes its ability to leave the office.
For many young people work-life balance is as important, often more so, than salary. According to The Hartford's research 43% of millennials quote flexible work schedules as important to them, while EY's own work found that many would pass up promotions or take pay cuts in order to feel more control over their own lives.
This isn't to say that it's a generation of slackers. In fact, EY's study found that they're working longer hours than ever, they just want to choose when to log those hours.
And it's an attitude they readily adopt once in charge.
One of the hallmarks of millennial employees has been their quest for constant feedback. Often irritating to older managers, and chalked up to an over-parented cohort in need of constant praise, much of the truth behind this attitude has more to do with collaboration. Millennials may require too much from bosses, but their perspective is less about seeking praise than communication.
Above all else this is a generation that has come of age in an era of constant, frictionless communication, so for many young people it's confusing when a hierarchy seems to frustrate that. For every boss who grumbles over that kid in need of cookie, there's a 20-something annoyed by problems that could have been solved by simply asking the right questions.
Once in charge, it's an attitude that permeates their leadership.
Pollak called transparency the "signature style" of Millennial managers.
"Look at someone like Mark Zuckerberg," she said. "'This is what I'm wearing to work, this is what I said in a meeting…' I think it's a style of transparency personally and professionally. He's talking about work-life balance and talking about parenting in the workplace, which is not something you would have seen from a male CEO 20 years ago."
This is an attitude that can have its downsides too, certainly, as Millennials need to understand the difference between managing and oversharing. Still, those who work with them should expect far more generous open door (and open inbox) policies.