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

How executives and managers are vulnerable to individual liability

Michael J. Torchia, Esq., Managing Member, Semanoff Ormsby Greenberg & Torchia, LLC

Michael J. Torchia, Esq., Managing Member, Semanoff Ormsby Greenberg & Torchia, LLC

Michael J. Torchia, a managing member at Semanoff Ormsby Greenberg & Torchia, LLC, gave a seminar to executive clients on individual liability several months ago. “Even if some supervisors knew they had liability under a statute or two,” he says, “seeing their actual exposure to 12 or 14 statutes shocked them.”

“I don’t think business owners have any clue how vulnerable they are to being sued under various employment statutes,” Torchia says.

This exposure is prevalent in areas like discrimination cases, and wage and hour claims which include unpaid overtime, exempt and non-exempt employees, and independent contractor status.

Smart Business spoke with Torchia about individual liability and strategies for protection and avoidance.

How are executives vulnerable to individual liability? 

Many state and federal statutes explicitly state an employee has a right to relief against the employer and an individual.  Some simply define ‘employer’ to include certain individuals. Examples include the Pennsylvania Wage Payment and Collection Law; Fair Labor Standards Act; Family and Medical Leave Act; Pennsylvania Human Relations Act; Pennsylvania Whistleblower Act; Immigration Reform and Control Act; and COBRA. There are also common law court cases allowing an individual to be sued under a variety of claims such as intentional infliction of emotional distress and defamation. Although incorporation helps shield individual assets — as opposed to, for example, a sole proprietor — the corporate veil does not protect individuals here because the statutes specifically allow action against them.

How far into management is the risk?

Generally, if an executive, manager or supervisor is considered a decision maker when it comes to employee issues, especially with regard to compensation, benefits or termination, there could be individual liability. In some organizations, that could be those at the ‘C’ level, president or vice president, but in others a secondary or middle manager could be individually liable.

What about executives who say, ‘I was following orders’ or ‘It was unintentional’? 

‘Just following orders’ or ‘company policy’ may help, but is not an absolute defense. And whether the improper act was or wasn’t intentional is only relevant if the statute requires proving intent, bad faith or a knowing violation.

So, how can executives protect themselves?

At a minimum, managers, supervisors and executives should make certain they have adequate insurance. There are a variety of policies for individual exposure, such as employment practices liability, directors and officers, fiduciary liability, and errors and omissions. There are also lesser known policies that cover, for example, inadvertent disclosure of private information.

Another factor is asset protection. In Pennsylvania, assuming the executive is not already named in a lawsuit or under imminent threat of a claim, which could result in a fraudulent transfer claim, assets can be protected by putting a house, cars and bank accounts in joint names with a spouse.  If not married, executives may consider increasing contributions to retirement accounts, which are not usually subject to collection.

How can executives and their companies avoid problems in the first place?

Training and education for managers, supervisors and executives — especially your decision makers — is key. They need to know how to handle all aspects of their supervisory duties, such as hiring, discipline, firings and employee complaints.

The company’s written policies should be consistent with the manager training and what is actually done day to day. Policy review and training should occur at least every three years, and sooner if there is turnover or changes in the law. Seminars and in-person training for middle managers is routinely overlooked or disregarded as unnecessary, but that it is one of the most important steps a company can take.

Most often decision-making executives, managers and supervisors are not trying to violate the law. However, with authority to bind the company, they can unknowingly cause liability to themselves or the business.

Michael J. Torchia, Esq. is a managing member at Semanoff Ormsby Greenberg & Torchia, LLC. Reach him at (215) 887-0200 or [email protected]

Insights Legal Affairs is brought to you by Semanoff Ormsby Greenberg & Torchia, LLC


Fidelity pushes stock fund managers on performance

BOSTON, Wed Jun 13, 2012 – Top portfolio managers at Fidelity Investments are getting more scrutiny than ever of their investment decisions as the Boston-based mutual fund company works to reverse a pattern of inconsistent performance.

Stock mutual fund performance, according to Fidelity’s own internal assessment, has ranged from great to lousy over the past few years. In 2008, Fidelity hit rock bottom when its stable of stock funds beat only 36 percent of their peers during the height of the credit crisis.

Four years later, Fidelity executives concede their work is not finished.

“Turnaround is not the word I would use,” Brian Hogan, president of Fidelity’s equity division since 2009, told Reuters in an interview. “That would suggest we are done showing improvement.”

Investors are not waiting around. They yanked $9 billion from Fidelity’s diversified stock funds in 2012 through May after pulling $21 billion last year and $15 billion in 2010, fund researcher Lipper, a unit of Thomson Reuters, said.

American Funds manager Capital Research & Management was the only firm doing worse over the past few years, Lipper said. Between them, the two wounded giants accounted for almost three quarters of the entire industry’s outflow of $89 billion from the category last year and two-thirds so far this year.

Competitors like T. Rowe Price Group Inc. and Vanguard Group, meanwhile, each had stock fund inflows this year of $2 billion and have experienced positive flows for the segment every year since the end of 2008, Lipper said.