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The Millennials Are Coming! Understanding Your Future Boss

October 31, 2019

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There’s a lot of talk about Millennials – stereotypes, trends, and discussions among coworkers. But rest assured, they’re more than the sound bytes. The oldest of this unique demographic are in their late 30s and they’ve moved into management roles and are running companies. They’re the largest growing demographic in the workforce, and the largest living generation, so it’s time to work to understand them, see their strengths, and see the shifts that Millennial bosses will bring to your workplace.

The career-development site the Muse surveyed 155 Millennial bosses to ask about their management style, values, and intentions. The main priorities they held were people-focused: positive work culture, strong personal (not digital) relationships, and caring for employees as people and humans, not just workers. All of these speak to what they saw when they entered the workforce over a decade ago – the overreach that today’s business environment has on companies and employees.

As half of this generation hits managerial maturity, the smartest organizations and leaders will optimize the brightest Millennial talent by working with, not against their strengths, and allowing them to drive dynamic team and organizational culture.

So what do you need to know about them to understand how they interact with colleagues, and how they move through the workplace, as humans, and as bosses?

As humans:

  • Salary doesn’t motivate them. Do they expect to get paid appropriately, yes. But it’s not what drives them or keep them up at night.
  • So what DOES motivate them?
    • They want to make a difference; they are focused on how products and services can improve people’s lives or improve the world at large.
    • They want opportunities to learn and grow; opportunities for advancement and to be engaged in their work.
    • They want a good fit with company values and culture.
    • They want feedback. They thrive on ongoing conversations about the work.
  • They are nimble in the face of change, willing to drive and accept it.
  • Trust and respect are highly prized and expected. 
  • They need to know what’s next; having a clear path to advancement and growth. 
  • Vulnerability and strength are not mutually exclusive.
  • Community is critical to them. 
  • They crave authenticity and genuine interactions. Technology is part of their day to day but does not replace these core values of many other generations.
  • They value face-to-face and digital communication; they use different methods to suit the interaction or the need.

As managers:

  • They value diverse teams – diverse in expertise, experience, and strengths – but still value team fit over nearly all else. 
  • They are interested in leading in racial diversity, gender diversity, and work-life balance. They recognize shortcomings in those areas in their predecessors and want to fix them. 
  • They are champions of employee paths. They want to create opportunities for those below them; they do for others what wasn’t done for them. 
  • They give feedback regularly. They think it’s critical for an optimal workplace. Forbes noted, “They might give their employees more frequent updates, or talk about their work on specific tasks and projects, sometimes bordering on the verge of micromanagement.” This will serve some employees very well, but not all. 
  • They are bold – change is constant for them, so they aren’t afraid to upend things. 
  • They trust and respect. They create an environment with flexibility for all, rather than restrictions because of a few. 
  • Community, engagement, and authenticity will be important components of what you’re expected to explore with your brand, product, and/or service. 
  • They will expect you to be responsive digitally and verbally.

When you get past the pundit sound bytes, it’s easy to see the benefits of working alongside and for this generation. Creating flexibility in the workplace and opportunities for employee growth are two important things Millennial leaders do best. Enabling talent to succeed is no small matter. We hope you can begin to be excited about your future bosses with just a little more understanding. 


About the Author:

Heidi Souerwine is the Conference and Content Manager for ASAP, the APC, and EA Summit. Prior to moving to Maine and joining the ASAP team, she spent 15 years in Washington, DC managing training and events from 10 – 10,000 attendees for international membership associations, non-profits, and the federal government. Heidi is passionate about needs-based program development, purposeful event design, and cultivating active community and attendee engagement.

American Society of Administrative Professionals

Producer of

APCEA Ignite