Millennial Workers: The Best Strategies That We Have Learned

By Miranda Kitterlin, Ph.D. Assoc. Professor, Chaplin School of Hospitality & Tourism Management, FIU | August 19, 2018

I recently had a conversation with an industry professional regarding millennials, and what management strategies he was finding most effective with this much discussed and debated generation.  His response was, "None!  You can't manage them!"  While my outward response was a polite chuckle, my internal response was, "Well, that's not a very productive attitude."

Unfortunately, this 'millennial bashing' trend does not appear to be fading among the older generations.  It is not uncommon for me to hear that the millennial worker enters with unrealistic expectations, a self-absorbed perspective, and a history of "I tried, so I should be rewarded" (stemming from the "everyone gets a trophy" childhood). 

Generational differences have always caused frustrations, in society as well as the workplace.  This is not novel.  The response to this particular generation by many was originally to try to bend them to our own views and values: tell them the requirements of the job, enforce performance standards and disciplinary actions, tell them they are not special, and fire them if they can't get on board.  Very Theory X, if you ask me (or Douglas McGregor).  What is interesting about this is the idea that we could completely change an entire workforce of over 80 million laborers.

When I began to write this article, I compiled information from management regarding what they feel they have learned about millennial workers from their experience supervising and working with them, and was pleased to hear that not everyone felt this way, and that many professionals are seeing the value in this labor pool.  I also realized that I was looking at the dynamic from just one perspective, and felt that this narrow view may be a disservice to the topic.  So, I reached out to the millennial workers themselves, and asked some very open-ended questions about their workplace and management style preferences. 

The similarities in their responses was uncanny, and offered a very clear message as to what strategies we may implement to capitalize on the strengths of this generation of labor.  There were also some conflicting discoveries in regards to what the millennial worker wants versus what we think they want.  Below I provide these tactics, as well as direct quotes from the millennial workers, which I feel provide a rich context and relatable examples.  

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