Managing Millennials


The second edition of Managing the Millennials is an important read. Because, in 2015, Millennials comprised 35 percent of the workforce--nearly 54 million workers. And, by 2020, one in three adults will be a Millennial, and then by 2025, three of four workers will be from the Millennial generation.

Further, according to the book's co-author Chip Espinoza, more than 60 percent of employers say that they are experiencing tension between employees from different generations--more than 70 percent of older employees are dismissive of younger workers' abilities. And, 50 percent of younger employees are dismissive of the abilities of their older coworkers.

In this latest updated edition of the original 2009 book, the authors include new research and new real-world examples to assist you in:
  • Making the most informed decisions on getting the most from twenty-something employees.
  • Executing solutions to the most common obstacles to younger workers engaging and learning from the people who manage them.
  • Enhancing your skills as a job coach with practical tips and hands-on tools for coaching Millennials, 
You'll also learn about the nine points of tension that result from clashing value systems in a cross-generational management context and nine competencies required to mitigate each counterproductive disconnect.

Recently, Espionza kindly answered the following questions for me:

Chip Espinoza, PhD

QuestionThinking about the reaction to your first edition six years ago, what reaction from readers pleased you most? And, what reaction/feedback surprised you most?

Espinoza: I was most pleased that people commented that it was a solution-based approach to managing the next generation and not just a conversation about Millennials. They also appreciated the theoretical framework that was laid out for the discussion. Perhaps the greatest compliment is that people said they immediately applied the competencies in their management approach and experienced instant results. I was surprised that parents of Millennials would write me and thank me for helping them better understand their Millennial children.

QuestionIt seems that a lot has been written about Millennials in the workplace. Is this unusual? Or do you believe, with each generation a lot was written about that generation's fit in the workplace?

Espinoza: You can see the concept of a generation in ancient literature but the study of generations (or age cohorts) is traced to German sociologist Karl Mannheim who put forth generation as a sociological construct in the late 1920's.

The conversation about emerging age cohorts is the result of what Norman Ryder referred to as demographic metabolism, “Society persists despite the mortality of its individual members, through processes of demographic metabolism and particularly the annual infusion of birth cohorts. These may pose a threat to stability but they also provide the opportunity for societal transformation.”

So no, the conversation about successive generations is not unusual. What is unusual is that you have what was the largest generation (Baby Boomers) giving way to the new largest generation ever—the Millennials. Group norm theory suggests the largest group gets to set the agenda, make the rules, and sanction those who do not comply. Baby Boomers have set the workplace agenda for three decades. GenX was not a big enough generation to challenge the Baby Boomers’ ways (perhaps with the exception of casual Friday and telecommuting). The sheer size of the Millennial generation has accentuated tension over workplace values, behaviors, and expectations. In addition, GenX has waited for Baby Boomers to retire and are now witnessing their younger work siblings promoted to equal or greater positions with less experience. As a result, I do believe more has been written (the good, the bad, and the ugly) about the Millennial age cohort.

QuestionGenerally speaking, do you believe Millennials appreciate all that is being written about their fit in the workplace? 

Espinoza: In fairness to Millennials, it is important to note that it has been argued that a generation does not see its uniqueness until after age thirty. It would be a rarity to see a Builder, Baby Boomer, or GenX’er who resented being labeled as a member of a generation. A cohort’s mature identity is achieved through a newly found freedom of self-definition.

Early on in my research Millennials appeared to be amused with all of the attention. As a result of being the largest age cohort ever and growing up in affirming environments, Millennials are used to attention. Prior to work life, it is mostly positive attention.

Recently, there has been growing Millennial fatigue with all that is being written about them. You can see it in Millennial blogs, article comment sections, and pushing back at work.

I experience Millennials to be quite self-aware. They understand some of the attention (positive and negative) they receive is warranted. Perhaps not due to their own values and behaviors, but those of their peers. Whether Millennials want to be written about or not is irrelevant. They are the biggest generation and they are always going to be written about and marketed to. Much of what is written is hyperbole. My advice to Millennials is to not be reactionary.


QuestionHaving studied Millennials for so long, what do you believe is the single most understood thing about this generation?

Espinoza: They have high expectations—of the schools they attend, the organizations they work for, the nonprofits they volunteer in, the merchants where they shop, the candidates for whom they vote, and the speed at which their careers move. They believe they can make a difference and I do too!

Espinoza, PhD, is an academic director of Organizational Psychology and Nonprofit Leadership at Concordia University Irvine. Economic Times recently named him a top 15 thought leader on the future of work. Mick Ukleja, PhD is the book's co-author.

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