How to Manage Millennial Employees

Last year I started answering common questions I hear from my consulting and speaking clients about Millennials in the workplace. Here I’ve collected the best of this advice into a handy “Guide to Managing Millennial Employees” that I hope is helpful for all generations.

Question 1: Why are millennial employees such slackers? They don’t seem to want to work as hard as I did.”

First off, let’s admit that it’s pretty funny when Gen Xers like me, the original “slackers,” start throwing shade. And let’s make sure we’re not just joining the long line of millennial bashers out there. However, even though all millennials are obviously not the same, I can’t deny this question is out there. But guess what? You, the manager, might be part of the problem! This post covers some of the reasons Gen Y might look at the workday a little differently than other generations do, and offers tips on what all generations can do to be more productive together.

Question 2: Why are my millennial employees always wearing headphones at work?

The short answer: They’re likely not trying to tune you out. (Well, at least not all of the time.) It turns out there are actually a wide variety of valid reasons any employee might be wearing headphones or earbuds — hello, noisy open-plan office. This post discusses what you can do if you’re uncomfortable with those ubiquitous white gadgets, and also offers solid reasons on why earbud wearers should pop them out now and then.

Question 3: Why do millennial employees seem to want constant feedback at work…and usually only positive feedback?

I hear this all the time: Young professionals want endless feedback, constant feedback, continuous feedback. And that expectation can make even the most well-intentioned manager feel overwhelmed. This post explores some of the reasons that early-career employees crave feedback — and why that’s a good thing! — as well as some ways leaders can manage the frequent requests so you can still get your own work done.

Question 4: What’s up with the “loose” hours my millennial employee keeps?

Have you noticed your newer employees tend to come in late and leave early? These seemingly erratic hours may make you wonder if they understand what “work hours” are — and it’s very possible they don’t! What I’ve found over the years is that what seems totally obvious to some of us (e.g., working the same hours every day) is a complete mystery to others. This post talks about some non-confrontational ways you can explain “office hours,” and also gives some food for thought to Gen Y about why IRL “face time” really does matter.

Question 5: Why can’t/won’t/don’t millennials talk on the phone?

Millennials are always “on” their phones — and let’s face it, so are most of the rest of us. But that communication rarely seems to be with their voice — unless they’re asking Siri for directions or sending a voice text. But often phone calls are required in a business setting. This post discusses why many young professionals haven’t mastered “phone etiquette” (One culprit? The demise of the house phone) and provides ways to help millennials improve their skills.

Question 6: Why isn’t my millennial mentee reaching out?

This question surprised me the first time it was asked. Why wouldn’t a junior person do everything he or she could to engage with a leader who expressed interest in being a mentor?

But then I realized that often young professionals don’t know how to be a good mentee and sometimes mentors aren’t sure how to smooth the way. Recently some of my clients have asked for Mentee Training, and this post summarizes some ways to make the mentor/mentee relationship a successful two-way street.

Now it’s your turn: What is a question about managing millennials you have? Please share below or on Twitter.

Lindsey Pollak is the leading expert on millennials and the multigenerational workplace, trusted by global companies, universities and the world’s top media outlets. A New York Times bestselling author and keynote speaker, Lindsey began her career as a dorm RA in college and has been mentoring millennials — and explaining them to other generations — ever since. Her presentations have audiences so engaged that, in the words of one attendee, “I didn’t check my phone once!” Contact Lindsey to discuss a speaking engagement for your organization.

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