How to Work with Millennials

How to Work with Millennials
If you are watching a video of nerf gun wars, only one thing could be true. We are talking about millennials in the workplace.

There is no escaping it. You will be hiring millennials whether you want to or not, and you will have some culture clash if you are a Gen-Xer or beyond. Actually, you will have some culture clash if you are also a millennial, trying to work with other millennials. Here is why.


Millennial is a state of mind


millennials mellennial how to
There are some millennials who aren’t millennials. These old soul millennials are hard working, independent, arrive on time, and don’t ask for a raise within a month of starting their job. If you are a business owner who is a millennial, there is a very good chance that you aren’t a “millennialy” millennial. You might technically fit in the age range, but you don’t fit in the head space. So don’t get all insulted on me now.
millennials millennial how to
To gain some perspective, I think back to my first job out of college, my first “real job” that didn’t involve manning a drive-through window or taking an order. I was a traveling sales manager for an alarm company. I had three locations to manage and didn’t spend much time in the office. The company owner instituted a weekly meeting a few weeks after I started, and I simply didn’t show to the first one.
When he asked me why, I gave him some lame excuse.
Then I didn’t show on the second week. When he asked me why, I gave him another lame excuse.
Looking back, I can’t even imagine what was going on in my head. I was twenty-one years old, and I was showing strong millennial behavior. Which has lead me to believe that it really isn’t THIS generation that is millennialesque. It is all twenty-something age groups. We all sucked at one time. Take heart.
That said, there are some challenges when someone who IS hardworking, independent, and arrives on time, works with someone who is not. Here is one primary challenge, and how to overcome it.


When They Can’t Think for Themselves


Our office utilizes marketing interns, and has for years. One of our first marketing interns, bless his heart, blew his nose in the office, then held up the kleenex and asked me, “Where is the garbage can?”
Here are two answers to the seemingly innocuous “where is the garbage can?” question, and the repercussions of both answers.


Choice #1:

Answer his question. Walk him to any one of twenty garbage cans that are kept in obvious places. Like against the wall every ten feet. Or under every desk in the whole damn office.

Results of Choice #1: He feels happy. He feels safe and comfortable. You are treating him just like his parents treat him–as a child. Meanwhile, you are internally seething. You have also just reinforced that he is a child, and you are the adult. He needs to ask you permission to do anything, and can’t think for himself. Oops.
millennials millennial how to

Choice #2:

Tell him he can figure it out. You can do this with varying degrees of kindness or snarkiness, depending on your personality.


  • Level 1 kindness: Oh! I am so glad you asked that! We have strategically placed garbage cans throughout the office, and one of your first tasks today is to look around and see if you can spot one. 
  • Level 2 neutral: I appreciate that you asked, but we have a company culture here of figuring out things on your own first before asking. Would you mind looking around and seeing if you can find a garbage can on your own? 
  • Level 3 snarky: Seriously, dude? Use your eyeballs. 
Results of Choice #2: He feels dumb. There is no way around it. Even if you say this in the kindest way possible, there is no way for a grown adult to not feel dumb when you point out the obvious to him. But . . .
In the long term, you are doing him a huge favor. You are growing him up as a person. You are teaching him to think independently. You are helping him to not drive you crazy.


Which is better? 

His feelings are protected, but you are internally seething? Or he feels dumb for ten minutes, but you are teaching him skills that he will not only use for this job, but for his entire career. The added benefit of being honest with him is you aren’t annoyed. Don’t underestimate the power of not being annoyed.
millennials millennial how to
And when you step back to look at the whole millennial complaint, you realize that all of the symptoms are the same problem. Society has been working too hard at stuffing our annoyances to protect his feelings.


Consider this:

  • He comes late because no one has told him firmly that he can’t
  • He asks for an office and a raise because no one has told him firmly that he can’t
  • He hangs out on his phone when he should be working because no one has told him firmly that he can’t
If you work with millennials (or any twenty-something demographic) you will eventually come to this conclusion: I need to help this poor clueless kid out by telling them the truth instead of protecting their feelings.
Tell him the truth, if you don’t, he will most likely quit or get fired. He will then go on several more times to quit or get fired at different jobs. And then as he reaches his late twenties, he will finally figure out on his own that he has been a child and he will start making better choices. 
Or you can do the hard thing and start having those uncomfortable conversations, help him to start feeling dumb, and teach him to be an adult in one year instead of ten. Which is kinder in the end? 
millennials millennial how to work
And . . . come meet the AWESOME millennials on my team and you can observe them finding the garbage can all on their lonesome. It is amazing to watch, but not as amazing as the content you will learn by attending a Business Intensive Retreat. Free Training For Entrepreneurs
That was a stretch, I know. 
xo, Kim Flynn