Leadership and Millennials: How to Overcome Perceptions

Generational Leadership

Were you were born between 1980 and 2000 and are or aspire to be in a senior management position?

Do you have a boss who is younger than you from this generation?

I’m always fascinated by the research that shows how various generations act and react. Sure, the research often results in generalizations. Some of us may resist or see the exceptions. Still, there’s no denying that there is truth in the research that may help you become a better leader. Perceptions about each generation shape how we manage and lead.

Chip Espinoza is a noted expert on generational dynamics and especially the Millennial generation. How to manage them is often a subject, but increasingly it will shift to how this generation will lead and manage others.

 

“Invest in yourself before you expect others to invest in you.” -Chip Espinoza

 

Chip’s latest book, Millennials Who Manage: How to Overcome Workplace Perceptions and Become a Great Leader, co-authored by Joel Schwarzbart, is one of the first to cover the subject. I found it a fascinating read, backed by extensive research, that helps everyone better understand workplace generational dynamics.

I recently spoke with Chip about his research and his work with Millennials.

 

 

“Engaging authentically with people is the first task of genuine leadership.” -Margie Worrell

 

Characteristics of Millennials

What are some of the characteristics of Millennials?

Ambiguity is their kryptonite. If you want to freak a Millennial out, be ambiguous. Millennials believe everything is negotiable, and they expect authority figures to be friendly, helpful, and their advocate.

Career development is their love language, and they expect to have a voice in the organizations they work for—from day one. They also tend to confuse quantity with quality. For example, in college, if there is a 10-12 page paper assigned, if they write 12 pages, they often will think it warrants an A.

It is important to understand that intrinsic values drive behavior. Millennials have some very admirable values when it comes to work, but their behaviors are often misunderstood or misinterpreted.

Here are some intrinsic values of Millennials and how managers characterize them:

Intrinsic Value: Work-life fusion | Managerial Perception: Autonomous

Millennials express a desire to do what they want when they want, have the schedule they want, and not worry about someone micromanaging them. They don’t feel they should have to conform to office processes as long as they complete their work.

Intrinsic Value: Reward | Managerial Perception: Entitled

Millennials express that they deserve to be recognized and rewarded. They want to move up the ladder quickly but not always on management’s terms. They want a guarantee for their performance, not just the opportunity to perform.

Intrinsic Value: Self-expression | Managerial Perception: Imaginative

Millennials are recognized for having a great imagination and can offer a fresh perspective and unique insight into a myriad of situations. Their imagination can distract them from participating in an ordered or mechanistic process or from focusing on solutions that are viable under organizational constraints like timelines and budgets.

Intrinsic Value: Attention | Managerial Perception: Self-absorbed

Millennials are perceived as primarily concerned with how they are treated rather than how they treat others. Tasks are seen as a means to their ends. Millennials are often preoccupied with their own personal need for trust, encouragement, and praise.

Intrinsic Value: Achievement | Managerial Perception: Defensive

Millennials often experience anger, guardedness, offense, and resentment, and they shift responsibility in response to critique and evaluation. They want to be told when they are doing well, but they are not used to being told when they are doing poorly.

Intrinsic Value: Informality | Managerial Perception: Abrasive

Perhaps due to technology, Millennial communication style can be experienced as curt. They are perceived as inattentive to social courtesies like knowing when to say thank you and please. Whether intentional or not, their behavior is interpreted as disrespectful or usurping authority.

Intrinsic Value: Simplicity | Managerial Perception: Myopic

Millennials struggle with cause-and-effect relationships. The struggle is perceived as a narrow-sightedness guided by internal interests, without an understanding of how others and the organization are impacted.

Intrinsic Value: Multitasking | Managerial Perception: Unfocused

Millennials, as a cohort, are recognized for their intellectual ability but are often perceived to struggle with a lack of attention to detail. They have a hard time staying focused on tasks for which they have no interest.

Intrinsic Value: Meaning | Managerial Perception: Indifferent

Millennials find little energy in doing things they don’t consider to be meaningful. As a result, they are perceived as careless, apathetic, or lacking commitment.

 

“To attract followers a leader has to be many things to many people. The trick is to pull that off while remaining true to yourself.” -Rob Goffee and Gareth Jones

 

Unfair Stereotypes