Managing Millennials


Born in 1993, I’m pretty certain I’m considered a member of the sometimes disreputable and misunderstood Millennial generation. As more Millennials are entering the workforce, some of their workplace habits have been under scrutiny, as coworkers and managers consider Millennials to be different from previous generations. I was surprised to run into an article combating some of these notions, or at least questioning them.

The Harvard Business Review article centered on four common blanket statements made about Millennials:

  1. They’re completely different from “us” at that age.
  2. Millennials want more purpose at work.
  3. They want more work-life balance.
  4. Millennials need special treatment at work.

The basis for the article’s conclusions came mainly from research done by Jean Twenge, a professor of psychology at San Diego State University and the author of “Generation Me,” and her fellow researchers. Peter Cappelli, the George W. Taylor Professor of Management at the Wharton School, also offered his insight based on his studies of research done on Millennials.

All of the abovementioned statements were proven false aside from number three, which was found to be “somewhat true.” The basic conclusion was that Millennials are not drastically different from previous generations and the perceptions that they are derive from the age difference. In other words, Millennials are not that different from Baby Boomers when they were in their 20s and 30s.

However, when managing people, it is still helpful to recognize the differences that age can present, because people’s needs change as they progress through different stages of their life. What’s important to you when you’re 24 is not the same as when you’re 50.

The generational gap does not have to pose issues at work. In fact, Cappelli found in his research that teams composed of different-aged workers perform better, particularly because they don’t view each other as competition and instead collaborate to help each other.