The advice on Millennial managers you didn’t know you needed

published on March 9, 2020

A new generation of leaders is quickly approaching or, rather, they’re already here. In fact, 75% of the US workforce will be comprised of these people by 2025. Who are we talking about? Millennials.

There are over 83 million Millennials in the US. Not only are they numerous, but they are also powerful. Let’s take a closer look at Millennials and their presence in the workplace: 

  • Over 14 million Millennials are in management roles
  • 73% are making purchase decisions for their companies
  • 83% of employees have seen Millennials managing Gen Xers and Boomers

They are also less “loyal” to their employers than previous generations, which can pose problems for employers.

  • The cost of Millennial turnover is almost $40 billion per year
  • 21% have switched jobs in the past year
  • 50% expect to be in a different job next year
  • 60% are open to changing jobs right now

So, how do you keep Millennials on board? How do you work with them? How do you get the most out of a Millennial manager? 

In our February webinar, Eric Whitaker, director of qualitative research at Bellomy, answered these questions. Based on research and his own experiences with Millennial coworkers, Eric had plenty of insight to give. He compared the GenX and Millennial manager mindsets. For every difference, Eric addressed misperceptions of Millennials and the root of those misperceptions, which he refers to as the “cultural pivot point.”

Building Teams 

gen x thought: we need the right teamGenX manager: “We need the right team.” 

Millennial manager: “We need the best individuals.” 

Misperception: Millennials are self-absorbed; they put themselves in front of company goals and values. 

Cultural pivot point: Millennials have grown up in a world where diversity — of personalities, experiences, and opinions — is the key to success. 86% of Millennials believe that differences in opinions within a team allow that team to excel. 

Eric’s advice:

Listen to the reasoning of Millennial managers and be aware of your prejudices. It’s hard to get people to think outside the box when they are hired based on how well they fit into the box.

Professional Development 

GenX manager: “People need to seek out opportunities for training and development.” 

Millennial manager: “I need a mentor who’s willing to invest in my path.” 

Misperception: Millennials want to be given things rather than earn them. They’re not self-starters and are always asking for help. 

Cultural pivot point: Engagement is the way to build a team. Millennials like to interact, and a distant supervisor suggests an unsupportive supervisor.

Eric’s advice:

Recognize that nobody achieves success independently. Professional development isn’t about certifications or fly-away conferences — it’s about fulfillment. Interact with your staff. Make training short and frequent. Take their professional development seriously, and they’ll take you seriously.

slides from "managing Millennials" webinarWatch the webinar recording to hear more of Eric's advice on bridging the divide in the workplace between generations.


Managing Expectations 

GenX manager: “The answer is no, because....” 

Millennial manager: “The answer is yes, if....” 

Misperception: Millennials are the “participation trophy” generation. They’ve been spoiled by their parents and don’t understand consequences.

Cultural pivot point: The answer “no” usually equates to “impossible.” Millennials want fulfillment and inspiration. They want coaches, not bosses.

Eric’s advice:

Showing them the path to success is more productive than steering them away from the path to failure. A strong “Yes, if…” answer is tied to an action plan.

Job Performance 

millennial thought: management needs to get me in the gameGenX manager: “Managers need to pay their dues.” 

Millennial manager: “Management needs to get me in the game.” 

Misperception: Millennials want instant gratification. They are entitled.

Cultural pivot point: Tenure-based hierarchies undermine Millennial managers’ trust. Management is not about superiority; it’s about ensuring a person’s success.

Eric’s advice:

Demonstrate that you genuinely care about their success. Give constant feedback and identify their strengths to build on. Recognize and award contribution.


GenX manager: “No news is good news. Keep doing your thing.” 

Millennial manager: “Engagement means investment.” 

Misperception: Millennials need constant praise and handholding.

Cultural pivot point: Again, Millennials want to interact. Consistent communication yields trust. Feedback is not a luxury; it’s a requirement.

Eric’s advice:

Hold regular meetings to build on the Millennial manager’s strengths. Understand that each employee is different and needs to be approached differently.

Tips for working with Millennial managers 

Gen Xers and Millennials often approach management differently. To bridge the cultural divide between GenX managers and Millennial managers and to get the most from relationships, it’s important to: 

  • Recognize and reinforce the value of Millennial managers 
  • Understand that we are all created equal... but different 
  • Communicate to build transparency and trust 
  • Invest in their growth to build their loyalty 
  • Be a coach, not a boss 

Dive into advice on how to become a better leader and unlock the potential of your Millennial coworkers.

Watch the webinar "Millennials in Management: Understanding & Adapting to a New Wave of Leaders" on demand.

Access the Recording