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Ph.D., CSP, CDR, US Navy Ret.,
CPAE Speaker Hall of Fame

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Millennials Word Cloud Concept angled

Millennials at Work

young professionalsMillennials are part of the work force and some other generations and managers are having difficulty successfully integrating this segment into their workforce. What are millennials thinking and how do we lead them? The Millennials Mindsets This is the generation that received trophies for graduating from kindergarten. They have been inundated with mental stimulation since before they were born by well-meaning, but sometimes crazed parents, who wanted to do their best to ensure the best possible opportunities for their children. Studies show millennials would rather give up their car than their smart phones, which is their lifeline to their friends, work, and social structure. They have never known life without immediate answers on Google, without immediate responses from friends (texts) and without immediate solutions (auto responders). They are a generation that is accustomed to having everything now. Because millennials have had such information blasted at them as well, they are smart, resourceful and yes, they act a little bit privileged. They are smart enough to know that the trophies were generally stupid, but they learned to love and crave attention as a result. Millennials at Work Some older workers resent the younger workers because the “youngsters” demand more and they get it. This is a generation that is not afraid to ask. Their grandparents and great grandparents were the greatest generation and they were tough, so they didn’t ask for special privileges. This younger generation asks, and while they expect to get turned down, they know that they won’t get anything if they don’t ask. They are not afraid of rejection. They are confident and they feel that not asking means not trying. This is often perceived by those around them as demanding and spoiled, with a focus on the individual instead of the team. Leading the Millennial Generation If you work with this generation, you can be successful when you:

Keep them informed of changes and procedures. If they want to know something, they will likely research until they find out, so keeping them informed about changes is reassuring to them that you, as the boss, know what is going on and that you have the situation under control.

Respect their opinion. Yes, I know they are young and lack experience, but they do know a lot, and they want to share what they know, so give them the opportunity to do that.

Give them projects that encourage autonomy. They want to thrive, and they are comfortable with risk, so let them try. They may surprise you with how well they come through, especially if they know the stakes are high.

Demonstrate trust. Trust is a huge factor with millennials. They want to trust you and they want you to trust them. They don’t feel they have to earn your trust, but they do somehow think you should have to earn theirs, so giving them opportunities that build trust will increase both their confidence in you and their loyalty to you.

Understand their attitude about changing jobs. For millennials, you are a stepping-stone. Even if millennials appear happy and are doing fabulous work, they are likely looking for new opportunities. They get bored easily and they want new experiences.

Changing jobs is just part of their life plan to explore options, see new parts of the country and the world, and work with new people. Millennials do not view changing jobs as a sign of disloyalty or dissatisfaction. Rather, they view several different jobs as part of life experience, so do not be surprised or hurt if they leave.

Provide feedback. They have feelings and they can be appear overly sensitive, but they crave honest feedback so they can improve. Sometimes it seems like they just want feedback so they can be told how great they are (and this is part of how they were raised) but many of them are truly trying to learn how to be a better worker, better colleague, and better leader.

It is all about them (for them). Well, yes, for them, it is all about them. I hear it all the time from millennials “I feel like I…” For other generations not trained to care too much about individual feelings, more mature co-workers get exasperated quickly at the thoughtlessness and careless attitude. Remember, millennials were raised to believe that their feelings and opinions matter.

Millennials will lead our businesses someday. While some current leaders may experience some frustration with them, the millennials have great knowledge, great energy, and they truly think they can change the world. Let’s work to help them be successful.


  1. Margaret French

    Thanks for your thoughtful article about Millennials in the work force. Your writing is one of the best descriptions of this generation I have seen. By reading this blog and taking the information presented to heart, employers and coworkers could gain deeper understanding about a Millennial employee and in the long run, improve their relationships, productivity, and culture in their office. Thank you for sharing your insights about generational differences. You have helped me understand my 28 year old business partner better and our relationship will become stronger because of your input.

  2. Ian Stevens

    That sounds like a very accurate description of me and I’m older than I care to share.
    Honestly though I am of the opinion that companies should hire teenagers as quick as possible………………………………….while they still know everything! 🙂

  3. Mary Kelly, PhD, CDR (ret)

    Oh, Ian, isn’t that the truth! Yes, we need to utilize our teenagers! 😀
    Thanks so much for the comment!


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