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Will Millennials Be Able to Manage?

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HBS had a question posted asking how well millennials would manage. The core of the discussion follows:

In short, they are high maintenance, high risk, and often high output employees… There seems to a fixation these days on millennials as employees. But what kind of managers will they make? Given the earlier reflections, one might conclude that they will never make it into the ranks of management. Of course many will… Will they be as sensitive to the needs of those in their employ as they want their managers to be with them? Will they open up their organizations more widely to global opportunities? Will they create work environments in which jobs fit into personal life styles rather than vice-versa? Will they encourage mobility in their employees? Or will they express the same concerns as those for whom they currently work? ((Heskett, Jim. August 2, 2007. “How Will Milennials Manage?” Retrieved from on September 10, 2007.))

Some of the responses were rather poor, but some were excellent. Here are some of the better ones:

Well, I am in management, and I do try to be as sensitive to the needs of my direct reports as I would want any manager to be with me. I try to anticipate potential conflicts by knowing them as individuals, and searching for compromises before conflict arises. Would I open up my organization more widely to global opportuntities? Definitely. I am not scared of other cultures or languages, and am not unwilling to compromise in order to foster mutually beneficial situations. I am not lost in political correctness to the point where I can’t see cultural differences for what they are and find ways to change processes to suit those differences and still maintain continuity. (anon) ((Ibid))

We’ve made a point of discussing how millennials will be more global in perspective, and how they are more community based, seeking to network in different ways that prior generations. But just because this doesn’t fit the current thinking, perhaps we haven’t given these generational traits the credit they are due. As the responder above points out, these traits can manifest themselves as incredible strengths, not weaknesses. And while there is a pro/con for just about anything, those millennials who can lever these traits into strengths will rise into the management ranks.

But to be managers, they have to learn to go through good and bad times. The Millennials are more motivated at the hard times but view the “all’s well” time as dull. They fail to see the less challenging times as a waiting and planning phase. In the so-called dull times, Millennials gets demotivated and impatient and hop jobs because they feel that taking challenges head on, and succeeding is the only way to success at the pace that they want to reach the top. ((Ibid))

The job hopping trait seems to be well documented and statistically accurate. While the root cause of hopping is in the desire to pursue interesting and challenging work, the commenter above is also correct in stating that assuming there will always be a difficult challenge to fix is not necessarily healthy for the organization or the employee/manager. Sometimes success is made through the careful and meticulous grooming of a business, not the rapid turnaround so many executives are paid for. While most publicized, those rapid turnarounds are probably the small minority of actual business cycles.

The millennial topic is always interesting. While there really isn’t much more to do than take a wait and see approach, I’d still theorize that the millennials are much like any prior generation. Each had their own defining characteristics, and in the end, each generation ended up developing and maturing much like the generations before it.

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One response to “Will Millennials Be Able to Manage?”

  1. ” Retrieved from on September 10, 2007. [back] Ibid [back] Ibid [back] Thank you for reading the Tribute Media Human Resources News Feed. Please check the original post here:systematicHR – Human Resources Strategy and Technology. The purpose of this feed it to provide information to the greatest audience possible. In addition, we can drive inbound links to your blog. If you would like to have your blog featured or removed from here or in any of our other newsfeeds, please