As a big believer in “proof,” I’ve interviewed three Millennials in the Fort Lauderdale/Miami area about their preferences at work.
Why? Because, as a business and marketing strategist, I work with companies that have Millennial employees to help them maximize their “happiness” and effectiveness. There’s a lot of age-bashing going around – about Millennials and about their managers (Gen X’ers and Baby Boomers). I help employees of all ages to find the common ground and sort out the underlying issues that keeps them from being as happy and successful as they can be.
I interviewed each of these three Millennials about their work, asking two questions:
- How do you prefer to be managed?
- How often do you prefer to get feedback?
For the data people reading this, I interviewed only these three people so my findings are statistically insignificant; however, there are startling revelations even in these three “data points.” My selection of these people was based on those who are working right now and would be interested in speaking with me about their preferences at work.
Revelation #1: Millennials are not at all the same when it comes to how they “work best”
Too often, we lump groups of people together based on broad generalizations. Why? Because it’s easy and we know examples ourselves that support what we think. This is a very “human” activity to do because the world is a complicated place and creating categories has helped us, over the millennia, to make sense of the world. It’s how our brain helps us to survive.
The problem with this brain work – creating categories – is that it ignores the complexity of people (and of life). Not everyone fits snugly into the generalizations. In fact, sometimes there are more exceptions than those that “fit the rule.”
And please note that these categories are often about other people – not ourselves – so we’re happy to lump people into categories in our minds but often bristle at people doing the same to us. (Sound familiar?)
If you listen to the full interviews I conducted, you’ll find lots more information about work histories, as well as totally different answers to the two questions above. Ignacio, for example, prefers to be pressured by deadlines and people; for that reason, the isolation created by COVID-19 (as well as other recent personal experiences) has been difficult. Francisco is totally opposite and prefers to be given freedom to do his job and do it well and, given his preferences, he manages his team the same way.
Revelation #2: Millennials are not “lazy,” often experiencing stress about deadlines
Daniela is a great example of a self-motivated Millennial who prefers to be given a project and then left alone to work on it, without constant supervision by her manager. But there’s a problem if she’s not given a specific deadline – she pushes herself and creates strict timelines for herself that may be unrealistic. Doing this, she can be inflicting self-imposed stress and pressure on herself.
As another example, if you listen to Ignacio’s answer to this question, he reveals the stress he has experienced during COVID-19 because of personal loss and his internal desire to meet goals despite this. And Francisco is very clear that he expects great work of himself – and his employees.
Revelation #3 – Millennials want feedback – and, again, each person is different
The theme that runs through all three interviews are the differences between each person. For example, Francisco and Ignacio receive almost constant feedback and are appreciative of it. Since Francisco is a chef, he’s most interested in what the customers think of every meal.
Daniela, on the other hand, is fine with hearing feedback after a project or an assignment she’s worked on – or at regular intervals – such as every six months.
The consensus of these three people is that more feedback is wanted. What’s great about working with many Millennials is that they want to know how they’re doing and want to know how they can do better – or learn more – or take on more important tasks. Again, for the most part; as I said earlier, no two people are exactly the same.
What does this mean for businesses with Millennial employees? It means employers need to work at finding these great workers, and at keeping them. It’s not enough to let them be and hope they do ok; younger workers need encouragement and nurturing.