Five tips for employees adjusting to millennial managers

It’s not a new flash that millennials surpassed Generation X as the largest generation of active workers in the U.S. workforce. But for the first time, millennials are aging and rapidly moving into leadership roles: 1 in 3 workers are millennials and 91 percent aspire to leadership positions.

Yet, today’s average retirement age is creeping up to 62 years old and the number of Americans at least 55 years old who were active in the labor force almost doubled in the last 10 years (a number expected to grow nearly 20 percent over the next 10 years).

Millennials have drastically different expectations for the workplace than Baby Boomers, and even Gen Xers — generations used to working as individuals in large corporations with traditional hierarchies. Flat management structures and team-based jobs are becoming the norm instead of management hierarchies or success hyper-focused on a powerful individual. And now, more than ever, it is critical employees adapt to different management styles to stay engaged and overcome challenges related to a multigenerational workforce.

Here are five ways employees can adapt to millennial manager-led workplace and capitalize on the opportunities of working with a multigenerational team:

  1. Define your needs. Millennials tend to want to continuously develop and strive for promotions and millennial-aged managers might think that’s what most employees want. Be transparent and openly communicate what your career goals are with millennial-aged managers to ensure your success as an employee — no matter what age you are. All employees have different desires, wants and needs. It is important managers understand individual’s needs so they can place that employee’s desired development goals as a priority. 
  1. Embrace empowerment. Millennials want to be managers that empower employees to actively contribute to work streams. As managers, they want to be good listeners and will seek out ideas from employees — don’t be afraid to speak up and share your ideas. millennial-aged managers are willing to try new things, challenge processes, think differently about a situation, tend to be very supportive and will likely be more encouraging. 
  1. Align personal priorities with team goals. Sometimes millennial-aged managers feel the team has as much influence as any management. Employees working in this environment should respect the team, get comfortable working with the team and focus on being an integral part of the team instead of promoting individual successes over the teams’ combined efforts. Newer managers will respect you for what you bring to a team and in turn invest in your individual talent and lead you the way you need to be led.  
  1. Be conversational. Compared to previous leadership generations, millennial managers might expect more frequent conversations and open dialogue between employees. Be prepared for real-time conversational feedback, with questions. For example, millennials are likely to question management decisions and take the same approach to providing feedback to an employee. This is not out of disrespect, or an assertion of their power — it’s coming from a place of learning and understanding. Don’t take it personally or be defensive. The best response is to just have a conversation. Most of the time millennials just want more information.
  1. Find balance. Millennial managers are more relationship-focused and expect employees to be engaged outside of the office; they also respect family and personal time. It’s important employees find their own balance and understand when to be engaged, but not feel obligated to attend every happy hour, or work flexible hours. For example, just because a millennial manager works flexible hours and emails you after hours doesn’t mean they need a response right away and you shouldn’t feel obligated to; responding the next day is totally acceptable.

Jaqueline Breslin has more than 20 years’ experience in HR and has consulted with thousands of SMBs throughout her career. She works directly with TriNet’s small business entrepreneurs and customers daily. She has experience implementing and managing HR programs to include policy development, learning and development plans, benefits, recruitment, employee retention, and coaching. For information, visit