"We can all agree that Millennials are the worst." So says The Atlantic, albeit tongue in cheek. But, that sentiment runs all over the internet. Millennials have "unrealistic salary/compensation expectations (51%), a poor work ethic (47%), and are easily distracted (46%). "
What about Millennials in management position? J.T. O'Donnell, Founder and CEO, CareerHMO.com, and a fellow Inc. columnist, summed up the problems in four ways:
- Inability to provide constructive feedback.
- Inability to manage their stress and keep emotions in check.
- Selecting teammates based on likability instead of skills and abilities.
- Failure to engage in conflict to bring about resolution.
O'Donnell is right. These are things that hold back Millennial managers. But, here's something most people don't consider. Do you know what the real problem with Millennials is?
They are young.
Yep. That's it. They are the youngest generation in the workforce, and so, they don't have good experience providing constructive feedback. They might struggle to learn it since they experienced massive grade inflation in school. We Gen Xers and Baby Boomers failed them in that. We failed to give them constructive feedback, so, surprise! They aren't good at it.
But, here's the thing: You weren't any good at it either when you were first in a management job. Very few companies have good management training programs. Most managers are just thrown to the wolves. The Millennial managers are no different. It is, Unfortunately, a learn-as-you -go path. And often, the senior level managers training the lower level managers never learned the skills they are supposed to be teaching.
So, if Millennials didn't receive proper education in school (because we were too busy inflating grades and making co-valedictorians), and their managers aren't that great at managing, why do they have the potential to become great? Here are five reasons you better hold onto your hat.
1. They have resources we didn't.
The internet existed when I obtained my first management position, but it didn't have the vast resources it does now. I've been blogging about HR for 10 years now. You won't find many people who have been doing that for longer. That means, when I was learning how to manage, I didn't have the resources that I, and my fellow management and HR writers, have given to the current generation--for free. Millennials can learn more about managing, earlier in their careers than previous generations.
2. Flexibility is a real thing.
Companies are much more willing to allow flexibility than they were 20 years ago. Millennial managers have never lived without the expectation that they can work from home from time to time. This means that when they step into management jobs, they already focused on managing by performance and achievement rather than face time, because they've never lived in a world where butt-in-seat time was the way lots of people managed. Millennials will expect to manage by performance, making them better manager to begin with.
3. Diversity. The real kind.
72 percent of American baby boomers are white, but the larger Millennial generation doesn't look like that: Only 56 percent are white. That means that Millennials who haven't had close contact with people who don't look like them are rare. They are more likely to respect racial and ethnic differences because they have friendships that cross those racial lines. And let's talk about women. The baby boomer women led the way of crashing through barriers, and the Gen Xers continued the fight, and now Millennials have every expectation that women will rise in the workforce, based on their ability. Managers who understand people who aren't exactly like themselves will be more successful.
4. Better education.
Yes, grade inflation is a real thing and a real problem, but that doesn't negate the fact that Millennials are "on track to be the most educated generation to date" according to the Pew Research Center. 27 percent of Millennial women and 21 percent of Millennial men had bachelor's degrees, compared to 20 and 18 percent, respectively, of Gen X women and men. We like to joke about some of the problems with education today, but Millennials have a lot of education and there are a lot more opportunities for continuing education--through online courses in traditional schools, and MOOCs, and even just listening to podcasts regularly. Previous generations didn't have that while learning to manage. There's always a source to help, and Millennials know how to find that source.
5. They have us.
Not to be too self centered, but young Millennials get to learn from previous generations in a way that didn't occur before. Sure, everyone had a boss, but now we have better networking, immediate forms of communication, and a strong focus on managing. We have the ability to fix the problems the younger Millennials have--we can teach people to hire based on skills, we can teach people how to disagree, and we can lead. As we teach these skills, the highly educated Millennials will take it and run.
Prepare to see great management once they learn how to do it. It took us time, and it will take them time.