It’s happening. We’re not going to have to worry about managing Millennials any more. They are already the largest cohort in the workforce and in the blink of an eye there will be more of them managing Baby Boomers than there will be Baby Boomers managing them. Instead of worrying about managing them, we get to worry about working for them.

The prescription is the same — just in reverse. Three years ago I wrote about Trying to Manage Millennials? Give Up and Lead Them Instead. I suggested they cannot be managed the way other generations have been managed.  Sarah Daniels, project leader in charge of accelerating transitions to help first-time leaders’ fullfill potential at First-Time Leader works through Behaviors, Relationships, Attitudes, Values and the Environment from the outside in with those leaders and their followers.


Environment – Context

Millennials, born before the turn of the century, are children of Baby Boomers. Their parents doted on them, heaping them with praise and building up their own sense of self-worth. Their childhoods were filled with structured activities. While that has certainly happened to some children before, this is the first Internet generation with all that entails.

What that entails is previously unimaginable access to data and information, connecting them with each other and the world. With the Internet, information is always available. But it is a raw, unfiltered, incomplete flood that needs to be assessed and merged with experience and skills to be practically useful.

Expect Millennial bosses to be strong on data. Don’t try to impress them with what you’ve been able to find out (what). Instead focus on your conclusions (so what) and recommendations (now what).


Values – Purpose

Happiness is good. Actually it’s found in the pursuit of three goods: good for others, good at it, good for me. As University of Pennsylvania’s President, Amy Gutmann explained, Millennials are “primed to do well by doing good.” For Millennials, work must have meaning. They won’t commit to you or to the organization. They will commit to a meaningful, good for others cause.

Figure out what your Millennial boss cares about, their cause. Make that your cause and you won’t go very wrong.

Attitude – Strategy

For Millennials, the line between work and personal time is an artificial boundary. As one student remarked at a CEO Connection Forum on Managing Millennials, “What I do is incredibly convergent with who I am.”

It makes no more sense for you to worry about doing personal emails and texts during “work” time than to worry about doing work emails and texts on your “personal” time. There is no work time. There is no personal time. There is no work/life balance. There’s just life. Get over it and get on with it.

Relationships – Message

Any communication with Millennials must be wrapped in respect. You must say you respect them. You must act with respect. You must truly respect them. In general, they deserve your respect. They have knowledge and skills that other generations can learn from. On the one hand this is true with all people and all bosses. All animals are created equal. Some animals and some bosses are more equal than others whether they are experienced or first-time leaders.

Behavior – Implementation

Blur the lines.

• You and them. Treat Millennials with the same respect with which you want them to treat you.

• Work and personal. Get over this historical divide. The two blur for Millennials. Accept it. Embrace it.

• Individual and group. Understand Millennials’ bias to work in networked teams and do so yourself.

• Face-to-face and electronic. Leverage the electronic tools they are so familiar with. Text and chat are as valid forms of communication for this generation as were PowerPoint slides in darkened rooms for Baby Boomers.

• Inspiring and enabling. Leadership is about inspiring and enabling others. For Millennials, enabling is inspiring. Do both. And do both together.