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Generations at Work

Ken Beurmann is the 31-year-old CEO of Terrio Physical Therapy & Fitness. As such, he is a Millennial who manages Millennials (as well as Baby Boomers and Gen Xers). Therefore, he’s in a unique position to help people understand what makes this generation tick and how to get the best from them at work.

Millennials (born around 1981 – 1995) are different, says Beurmann. “Because we were raised differently than previous generations, we think, communicate, and see the world differently. We’ve been called snowflakes, entitled, and lazy – and most of us can’t even spell the word ‘Millennial’ without the assistance of spell-check. However, Millennials can be a tremendous asset to your company – if only you would take the time to manage us appropriately.”

                  Beurmann believes average Millennial employees won’t conform to their boss’s leadership style, but great Millennial employees will bend over backward to fulfill their expectations. The same is true of managers. Average managers won’t adjust their leadership style to motivate Millennials, but great managers will do everything in their power to help Millennials succeed in the workplace. If your goal is to be a great manager of Millennials, then Beurmann suggests the following:

“First, manage Millennials with complete transparency. Millennials need to know the ‘why’ behind every decision. Transparency can be scary, but if you always make the ethical decision then you have nothing to hide.

Second, keep in mind that most Millennials value social responsibility ahead of their paychecks. Therefore, find a way to engage your Millennials in community projects or causes that closely align with your company’s culture.

Third, don’t underestimate a Millennial’s desire for work/life balance. Technology has allowed the workday to go beyond 8 am– 5 pm. Embrace that. Let your Millennials take time off, and make sure they have the flexibility to attend to their passions (travel, kids, etc.).

Fourth, hold Millennials accountable for being respectful – not authoritative. Yelling at a Millennial is unproductive, unsuccessful, and requires a lot of tissues.

Finally, actively recruit Millennials that possess ambition and critical thinking skills (they do exist). There’s no doubt the easiest way to manage a Millennial is to hire the best from the beginning.”   

As someone who is on the cusp of being a Baby Boomer (born between 1946-1964) and a Gen Xer (born between 1965-1980), I have some advice for Millennials on how to inspire your managers to want to adjust their leadership style for you.

First, show up to work on time. Older generations were taught to show up at least 15 minutes early and be ready to work immediately after punching in. When you arrive after you’re supposed to start work and then take time to get settled, it makes us cranky. 

Second, put your phones down. We were raised being told to “look at me when I’m talking to you,” so we tend to view a lack of eye contact as a sign of disrespect. You’ve been taught that you can multi-task, which means you think you can effectively listen and read your texts at the same time. You really can’t because our brains don’t have the capacity to do that, plus we think it’s rude.

Third, don’t expect to get a pat on the back for doing your job. Older generations were not rewarded for just showing up – we had to go above and beyond the call of duty to get recognized and usually only received feedback about our performance at our annual evaluation if we even got that.

Fourth, try not to take things so personally. Older generations tend to have a direct communication style (as you can see here) and get annoyed by feeling like they have to sugarcoat their words so you won’t get your feelings hurt.

Finally, to paraphrase a popular president during our time, ask not what your manager will do for you, but ask what you can do for your manager.  

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Disclaimer: The information and resources provided herein are not a substitute for experienced legal counsel and does not constitute legal advice or attempt to address the numerous factual issues that inevitably arise in any employment-related dispute. Although this information attempts to cover some major recent developments, it is not all-inclusive, and any recommendations are based upon HR best practices and procedures. We recommend you consult an attorney for legal guidance.

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