As my Inc.com colleague John Brandon has pointed out, Millennials speak their own (sometimes baffling) language. And as my other colleague Bill Murphy Jr. has also sagely noted, they sometimes need to get the worst excesses of their verbal style under control (like, literally).
But effective leadership is about two-way communication and respect. Just as junior members of a team need to adjust to the prevailing norms of a workplace sometimes, managers also have to take into account the preferences and mindset of those they supervise. Which means that Millennials aren't the only ones who should scrub their vocabulary of some highly annoying phrases. Leaders from other generations would do well to watch that they don't say these highly annoying things to Millennials.
1. "You can't use tech tool X."
"But why????" your Millennial staffer is likely to whine in return. Millennials are digital natives and generally adept at finding the right tech tool to accomplish whatever needs doing. That might even be part of why you hired your young team members. Now, if you turn around and limit their access to the tech they view as basically as essential as air, all you're going to do is make them think you value being controlling over being productive.
Of course, sometimes you need to vet the tech your team uses for security or other reasons, but is that really, actually the case this time, or are you just reverting to "no" as a knee-jerk reaction? Unless you have an ironclad reason, employers should probably default towards letting their younger employees do what they do best--leverage tech. Not only will you have a happier and more productive team, you might also discover some great tools in the process.
And if you really do need to check something out before you give the OK, for the love of all that's holy, don't take a week (or more!) to do it. "You realize that I can build a new website on Go Daddy in one afternoon, but it takes the folks in the office three days to get me a user ID and password," one frustrated Millennial told The Globe and Mail about foot-dragging, IT-incompetent leadership.
2 "Why did you arrive at 9:08 today?"
Your Millennial employees might stroll in the door a half hour late some days, but they also probably respond to emails a half hour after most of your other employees have gone to bed. As I've pointed out elsewhere, Millennials tend to be more focused on results than appearances, so micro-managing their time rather than their output is just going to confuse them--and quite possibly make them accomplish less rather than more. (Retail environments, where showing up late means opening late, are one obvious exception.)
"A lot of people now are [always] connected; they're checking email after hours. If companies are going to ask that much of people, they have a responsibility to give more as well. I think that means giving people the opportunity to have a flexible workday," Kathryn Minshew, CEO and founder of The Muse, told CNBC, expressing the Millennial approach to those missed eight minutes.
3 "Because I said so."
OK, you probably don't ever use these exact words, but many older managers react to Millennials' constant questions about the deeper reasons for requests with bemused (or maybe not so bemused) impatience. In short: You probably really want to reply "because I said so" sometimes.
It might seem extremely odd, if not downright disrespectful, for your Millennial report to ask you for an explanation for every request, but they're generally not trying to be rude. Sushi Intern CEO (and Millennial) Shara Senderoff explained to Forbes that this constant questioning "may feel like a mutiny, but it's not. The Millennial has been raised in an environment in which she's encouraged to engage and question authority; why would she accept a lesser bargain in the workplace?"
If you can possibly stomach it, switching from a more command-and-control style to motivating your team by helping them understand the meaning of their work will probably help you get the most out of your younger team members.
4. "We'll discuss it at your review."
Let's be honest, no one likes performance reviews. And employees are right to loathe a practice that science has shown yields little in the way of actually useful feedback. But Millennials will be particularly annoyed if you can't be bothered to provide both praise and criticism regularly.
Try to view this as a positive, like Twilio CEO Jeff Lawson. "We don't wait until the annual performance review to give feedback. You never want to have a surprise. This is especially important with Millennial workers, who really want feedback. They want to always be learning, always be growing," he told The New York Times, explaining "part of it is the short cycle of internet feedback, and people who grew up with the internet just expect quick feedback on things. That's just part of the changing ethos, especially with younger workers."
What other phrases should I add to this list?