RVB Associates Blog

Maneuvering Through the Millennial Minefield

[fa icon="calendar"] Mar 17, 2017 2:45:00 PM / by Dr. Rob Bogosian

Dr. Rob Bogosian

Here They Come....

Millennials surpassed the Gen-X population in 2015 when they reached 53.5 million in the workforce (US Census Bureau). The Gen-X population reached approximately 45 million in the labor force in 2015. Immigration trends are expected to add more numbers to the Millennial workforce population than the Gen-X population. Human beings are too complex to give you a blueprint for leading Millennial employees. 

Millennials 2.jpg

I recommend two approaches:

  • Get to know what makes each direct report tick.
  •  Use different approaches and track the results. We call this Try It & Track It™.

There are few important things you should know about the Millennial population that should help you undertand them and meet them where they are .  For those of you are saying, "They must mold to our norms, not the other way around", here is something you should know:

  • Millennials are expected to have an everage of 8 jobs by the time they reach the age of 34. This means that work tenure  is less important to them than previous generations.
  • 87% of Millennials say that work-life balance is important (Brain Drain Study).
  • 60% say are likely to describe themselves as "Work-Centric" which is lower compared to pevious generations (2010, Hershatter & Epstein). This means Millennials won't necessarily work crazy hours like previous generations.
Leaders can't change this world view.  HR policies and leadership practices should, whether we like it or not, shift to accomodate the new rising workforce. When you ask a Millennial to stay late or work on the weekend to finish an important project, don't be shocked to hear them say, "No thanks, I'm all booked up this weekend". If you hear this from a Millennial employee, first, calm down. Next, try to ASK more than you TELL. Find out what's happening 'this weekend' as though you're interested, not because you wish to indict. Then discuss the business need, ask for ideas to complete the project on time. It's a discussion that involves BOTH you and the employee. This may be a big change and it may get the results you want - higher commitment levels. Give it a try, as we say,  Try It & Track It™.

My advice is to acknowledge and legitimize your Millennial employees values and priorities. First, you must know what their values and priorities are. There is one best way to find out, ASK them. If you are not used to this type of interaction, you may want to brush up on your interpersponal competencies. Millennials, more than previous generations, had older, more well-educated parents. Their parents had more interaction with them primarily because of the security risks that social and mobile technology presented. 

  • 66% of Millennials agreed that, "they expect to have interaction with their supervisors" (2010, Hershatter & Epstein). 
  • Millennials parents were older becasue they waited longer to have children. The parents are also, typically, well-educated and they interacted with their children more than in previous generations (2000, Howe & Strauss).
  • 58% of Millennials are comfortable asking their boss for help when they need it (2010, Hershatter & Epstein). 

This means that you will have to be there when the Millennial employees need and want your attention. If you're not used to this it could be easy to make naive attributions about their interaction needs and expectations. 

  • Beware of jumping to conclusions or of using naive attributions to characterize their interaction behavior.
  • Try to avoid conclusions like, "they are too needy" or "It's all about them...". You may think that and if you act on it, chances are the realtionship will become more distant than connected. 


There are no easy answers for Managing the Millennial minefield. This demographic is growing in numbers. They may think about work and life differently than you do. This doesn't make either of you right or wrong. It means we have to work hard at knowing and respecting the Millennials for who they are, how they see the world and what they need from you, their leader. 


Topics: Leadership, Millennials in the Workplace

Dr. Rob Bogosian

Written by Dr. Rob Bogosian

Dr. Rob Bogosian is founder and principal consultant at RVB Associates, Inc. also featured in Business Insider, CNN Money, Fortune Magazine, CEO Magazine, Entrepreneur Magazine and co-author of Breaking Corporate Silence.