My column, Workplace Referee, is designed to help employees and managers gain better insight into each other's points of view (POV). Have a situation you'd like me to address? Please submit it by email HERE. Don't worry, I'll keep your identity private.
My Boss Is A Millennial Wannabe
Employee POV: My company needed to expand last this year and hired a dozen Millennials to support the growth. My boss and I have worked for five years together at this company. He's 50. But, in the last year he's started acting like he's 20. He loves the young employees. He's always complimenting them, joking with them and taking them out for drinks. They think it's great. I find it annoying. When did praising someone just for doing what's expected become a thing? My boss can tell I don't like his new approach to management. He told me I need to get with the times and learn to work with the younger generation. I get along fine with my co-workers. I don't need to be their best friends to do my job well. I'm thinking of quitting. I can't stand feeling like the cranky old person in the office, but that's what I've become.
Manager POV: When the executive team announced we were starting a hiring initiative to attract more Millennials to the company, I was hesitant. But, once they were here, I realized I love their energy. I remember how hard it was when I was starting out and I want to make the transition to the working world more fun and exciting for them. Plus, I find the more friendly I am towards them, the easier it is to get them to do their jobs and take feedback. Unfortunately, I have a more senior staff member who is struggling with this transition. However, it's been made clear we will continue to expand and hire entry-level employees, a/k/a Millennials. So, if he can't get with the program, I could see him being let go. It's unfortunate, but times are changing and we need to change with it.
Who's at fault?
It's true, engaging Millennials in the workplace requires a different set of management skills. However, it sounds as if this boss is taking it a step beyond. He's reliving his youth and alienating his older staff in the process.
At the same time, the older worker is struggling with the overwhelming youth factor in the office. Times are changing and learning to work with all generations is a new reality. Millennials make up over 50 percent of the workforce now and will make up 75% in the five years. If you are older and plan to stay in the workforce, dealing with Millennials and their new rules to work will be mandatory.
What can both sides learn from this?
In this situation, I would advise each side as follows:
Employee Takeaway: You aren't the manager. You weren't tasked with the job of leading the Millennial workforce. If you don't like the new direction of the company, you should start looking for a new employer where you feel more at home with the corporate culture and coworkers. But, keep in mind, Millennials will soon dominate the workforce. It's highly unlikely you will go someplace and not work alongside them. Perhaps, it's better for you to find your way to cope with the new reality.
Manager Takeaway: It's okay to embrace the youthful enthusiasm of the Millennial workforce. But remember, as a manager you're more like a parent then a friend. There will be times when critical feedback will be required and tough calls will need to be made. Does the leadership style you're implementing provide the trust and respect you'll need during the tough times? Be careful to set proper boundaries, or you could find challenging times ahead.