The Millennials are growing up. That’s not to say they’re changing their ways: They’re still hyper-connected, and still want flexibility, balance and meaning from their jobs. But after years of challenging recruiters and HR with their unique approach to the workplace, the older members of Gen Y are leveraging their experience into management positions. That’s right. Soon, you could be working for a Millennial.
Like any generation, Millennials vary in their expectations and precisely how they go about doing their jobs. Still, their plugged-in, fast-moving style is going to force changes in approach on the part of their teams. Like any boss, they’re going to worry about deadlines, schedules and budgets. What will markedly differ is their approach to communication and how they interact with you.
Online, All the Time
The Millennials are the uber-connected generation. “They were raised on the Internet and devices,” noted Alice Ain Rich, a career coach and corporate employment consultant in Boston. “You’ll have to text, you’ll have to communicate electronically, or communication won’t happen.”
This can lead to some uncomfortable situations. While you might be used to dealing with certain issues face-to-face—project updates, say, or even resolving conflicts between team members—your new boss may prefer to tackle those subjects by email or Skype. Whereas before, you may have provided project updates in status meetings, now you may have to put it all in a single slide.
The key to success is figuring out what approach works best for your new boss. In some instances, they may simply tell you, though it’s more likely you’ll have to look for signs. If your requests for phone calls or one-on-ones are repeatedly put off, shift your approach to email or text to see which gets you the most effective response. If your boss regularly sends around charts and graphs, look for ways to deliver information using similar tactics.
With all their experience in the professional world, Baby Boomers may have an easier time with this than they first imagine, believes Elizabeth Lions, a Dallas-based career management and leadership development specialist, as well as author of I Quit! Working For You Isn’t Working For Me. “Boomers really understand how to make their boss look good,” she said. If in doubt, “you can just flat-out ask them: ‘Is there anything I can do to make your job easier?’ Doing that helps if you’re missing the social cues.”
The Uncomfortable Truth
For some people, reporting to a younger boss can be ego-shattering. In such situations, anger and resentment are natural emotions, but you have to overcome them if you’re going to continue to succeed.
“As difficult as it is, you have to check your ego at the door,” said Rich. Though you should “remember that you still have a lot of knowledge,” don’t assume the manager doesn’t have the right skills, too. “The manager was made a manager because they bring something to the table.”
Keep your discussions—however you have them—on-point and focused. For example, you might be tempted to spotlight the depth of your knowledge by discussing the theory behind a programming language. Don’t do it. Like any other boss, Millennial managers are pressed for time and need immediate information related to the tasks they have in front of them.
Staying up-to-date has always been a key to success in IT, but working for a Millennial gives the idea of “current” new meaning. To communicate effectively, you need to know what’s going on not only in technology, but in culture as well.
This is all about speaking your boss’s language. Whether you’re a Gen Xer or a Baby Boomer, avoid the trap of isolating yourself with others of your own age. As Rich puts it, “You have to take the time to know what ‘trending’ means.”
A Millennial boss has the same concerns your other managers had, but their approach to directing the team is going to differ. For many tech professionals, working for them will mean jumping into a new world of texting and Skype, of more communications on the fly. Learn how they operate and reach out using the methods they understand. That way, you’ll develop the relationship and the visibility you need to keep your own career moving forward.
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