Being young and educated, I have been given the privilege of becoming a manager at an early age. I manage employees both older and younger than myself, and often feel as if I’m in a category of my own. Despite my best efforts to distinguish myself from several of the millennial stereotypes, I am in fact a part of the generation that now makes up the majority of our workforce. In this position, I constantly find myself wondering if my actions or decisions derive from my background and experience, personality or even current work environment. Of course, this could lead to a much larger discussion about whether leadership or management style is based on nature versus nurture: a post for another day.
I am starting this blog, with the goal of connecting and empowering myself and other millennial managers, as well as those who lead them. In sharing my experience, questions, insights and observations regarding our unique situation, my hope is that we can fuel the conversation around what it means to ‘manage millennially’: the good and the bad.
With Google at the wheel, I have often searched for various forms of ‘millennial manager’, ‘managing as a millennial’ or even ‘young and in charge’, with limited and only somewhat helpful results. So, like any true millennial, I decided to start my own blog and see if it gains momentum. This is my first experience with blogging. I typically shy away from over-sharing but getting out of one’s comfort zone is certainly a theme of successful leadership. I’m willing to give it a shot.
Like most managers, I work for an organization that values tenure and experience. Since being young and inexperienced are fairly synonymous, I feel that snap judgments can be a part of the daily routine. It is important to remember that these judgments can come from experience with other individuals (presumed to be around your age) rather than their actual observations of you. When meeting with leadership or c-suite executives, they may see you as their child or in the case of the few, remaining traditionalists, their grandchild. It doesn’t help when we choose to take notes on our laptop or have our phones on the table out of habit. I don’t feel that I can answer an email on my phone without at least one inquisitive look. Right or wrong, I feel that a lot of assumptions are made about millenials at work.
Despite my disappointing Google searches, one of the most helpful references I found came from Chip Espinoza. Chip has completed research on managing millenials and most recently, millenials who manage. (It is comforting to know that others have identified this knowledge gap, as well.) One of the most accurate quotes from Espinoza, says that millenials “don’t mind accessing their work life during their personal life, but they also want to access their personal life during work.” Of course, this can be seen as another reference to our dependence on technology but the point is well taken: we value work and we value life outside of work. We appreciate the opportunity to enjoy and excel in both.
The last statement certainly rings true for me, particularly during the summer. Here in the Midwest, summer can be a fairly short timeframe so we try to make the most of it. As an early careerist and manager however, I don’t always feel that I can take off early or use my full allotment of PTO, without damaging the reputation I’ve worked so hard to establish. I am humbled to work for such an outstanding and hallowed organization but like many others, we have opportunities for improvement in terms of work flexibility and formalities. Add it to the list of things that should allow millennial managers to make a meaningful impact in the years to come.