Why I Was Wrong about Millennials

11/13/2017 01:22 pm ET

How many of us have read an article or chatted with someone about the difficulty of managing millennials? I’ve come to the conclusion millennials aren’t the problem. In fact, millennials are improving how we work in ways other generations have failed to do, and the rest of us curmudgeonly gen x-ers and baby boomers need to get on board. The millennial workforce is creating a more egalitarian workplace while driving a culture of personal growth. As this cohort advances in their careers, the rest of the workforce can learn essential lessons from their approach and accelerate the movement.

Millennials Dismantle the Pyramid

As millennials entered the workforce I was surprised at their seeming lack of respect for the long-established organizational hierarchy. While most of us would have never asked the CEO a direct question in the beginning of our careers, millennials don’t see titles as a barrier and view everyone within the company as their peer. They also view leadership as something all employees can tap into, changing the workplace dynamic as they reach across teams and titles to get the job done. A powerful egalitarian ideology we’d all do well to adopt.

Millennial workers see opportunities in challenges and don’t doubt their ability to tackle tough situations. They are speaking up in meetings or scheduling time to inquire of management where they can take the lead. While this can be off-putting at first, it shouldn’t be dismissed. In fact, when companies go all in on this leadership-at-all-levels, open communication approach, ideas flow more freely and, ultimately, everyone contributes in a more meaningful way. Companies have the chance to influence and support their millennial managers by providing opportunities for employees to lead meetings, teams and strategic projects and help them cultivate leadership as a skill.

Millennials Seek Positivity

As more millennials break down traditional boundaries and become leaders in their organizations, they need coaching and feedback. Like all managers, millennial managers need clarity when it comes to their roles and responsibilities and how success is defined. But unlike other employees, millennial managers seek continuous feedback with a greater emphasis on positive reinforcement. The generation that came into adulthood accompanied by followers and likes on social media responds well to coaching and reinforcement. As such, this new model of management requires employee appreciation to be a greater priority. This focus on finding the positive can greatly benefit company culture, boosting the attitude of both millennials and coworkers from different generations.

Millennials Want to Contribute More

We all want to improve and advance in our careers, so it’s no surprise that millennials feel the same. As leaders, we need to tap into the millennial desire to grow and drive value in the business. A consistent theme with millennial workers is their appetite for constant advancement. While at times this can manifest as a lack of self-awareness or chasing speedy promotions, I believe the motives driving this behavior are rooted in a desire to have a greater impact. Younger workers feel strongly about their ideas and their ability to contribute. We can harness that passion by changing the conversation from things they cannot control (i.e. fast-tracking promotions or raises) to the things that lead to workplace fulfillment, like identifying and taking ownership of growth opportunities.

I think we can all agree that millennials are changing the workplace. From where I’m standing these are positive changes. Wouldn't we all thrive in an environment where our voices are heard, where positivity trumps negativity and where everyone is focused on growing and developing employees? To me this is a healthy evolution of the workplace. The time has come for us to stop blaming millennials and embrace the changes they are ushering in to improve our workforce. In the not-too-distant future they’re going to be in charge. I, for one, welcome our new millennial managers.

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