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entrepreneur-593361_1280For those of us who are Baby Boomers, having a millennial boss (or client) is no longer outside of the realm of possibilities. Can you avoid a generational clash? How does someone from Generation Y run the show?

First, let’s take a look at a few perceptions about millennials in the workplace:

  • “Entitled, lazy, narcissistic and addicted to social media,” according to CNBC.
  • “They Don’t Need Trophies but They Want Reinforcement,” Forbes wrote.
  • “Many millennials want to make the world a better place, and the future of work lies in inspiring them,” Fast Company proclaimed.

Where does the truth lie? As usual, it is somewhere in the middle.

Chris Altchek founded Mic in 2011 (then operating as PolicyMic) with Jake Horowitz, now 28, his former classmate from the Horace Mann School in New York. Their workplace is aggressively casual and open. It was reported that, “some ride hover boards into the kitchen for the free snacks. Others wield Nerf dart guns or use a megaphone for ad hoc announcements. Dino, a white Maltese terrier owned by the lead designer, snuffles between desks.”

Altchek runs the business out of a 15,000-square-foot converted warehouse in the Hudson Square neighborhood. A few things that can be noted about the company atmosphere is the lack of boundaries.

  • Work is preformed day and night – employees love to be there
  • A meeting can be held on Twitter as easily as it can face to face
  • Employees are encouraged to share liberally

“Maybe this is because I’m young, but, like, I don’t think that there is a lot about my personal life that I wouldn’t want to incorporate into what I’m doing professionally,” he said.

Advice for Working with Millennials

  • They respond to “lightweight signals” such as indirect inferences. Provide suggestions in soundbites – not a full movie.
  • Facilitate, don’t direct. Explain what to do –  without dictating.
  • Train them more. They grew up in a complex world, so are very open to training and learning new skills.
  • Reinforce the “why” because they tend to be better at perceiving value and weeding out the superfluous.
  • Consumerize because you’re competing with Facebook and Call of Duty. Make it fun.
  • Promote work-life integration. Promote healthy integration after hours.
  • Make it fun. Again. Making the environment fun promotes productivity.
  • Connect them to the mission. This is the “why” again. Show them how their project or task fits into the mission of the company.
  • Be super clear about expectations. Give them the WHAT and the WHY and let them figure out the HOW-to-get-there.
  • Always put things in context. Where does this fit in my week and my month? Why is this even important?

Source: New York Times, “What Happens When Millennials Run the Workplace?”, Ben Widdicombe, March 19, 2016