With millennials making their way through the leadership ranks, a growing number find themselves in the predicament of managing employees who have been in the field since they were in diapers.
Millennial media executive Nicole Larrauri manages 65 full-time employees at The EGC Group, a digital marketing agency. Many of her staff have more years of service than she does. Facing down skepticism among older employees that she has the right stuff to do the job simply because of her age, Laraurri offers up a few of her tips for millennial managers to gain respect and cooperation from a more seasoned workforce.
“Sometimes people aren’t really aware of how you earned your position, or they feel that because you don’t have the same number of years of experience, they assume that you don’t know everything that they know,” says Larrauri.
Although she agrees that managers shouldn’t have to prove themselves to others, she does think demonstrating her commitment to her work has helped solidify her position to baby boomer workers. “If you show up, and you’re the first one in and you’re working hard, then everyone pretty soon starts to get why you’re in the position that you’re in,” she says.
Setting expectations early about what she expects from her team and what she will deliver in turn has been key to avoiding conflict with more seasoned workers for Larrauri. “Baby boomers are very results focused,” she says. Just be sure to follow through and deliver what you promise.
The use of digital devices in the workplace by millennials can cause older employees to question how hard they’re really working. “Boomers don’t understand that you’re constantly on your phone,” says Larrauri. “They assume it’s for social reasons, not that you’re answering email or researching something that has to do with what you’re working on.”
Similarly, millennial managers also make assumptions that baby boomers aren’t as tech savvy as they really are. Larrauri says both generations need to check their assumptions at the door to avoid misunderstandings in the workplace.
While it can be tempting to act differently with different generations, Larrauri says this is a mistake. Being consistent, she says, is the key to solidifying your team’s confidence in you as a leader.
Acting light and casual with younger employees and using a stricter managerial tone with older employees will simply lead to confusion as to what type of manager you are, and may cost you their respect.
Working styles can sometimes collide in the boardroom as the generations try to figure out a style that works for both. For example, Larrauri says while millennials are used to gathering in a room to share ideas where everyone has an equal voice regardless of their status, those in the baby boomer generation are used to an environment where the more senior voice outweighs the others.
Larrauri believes both generations can learn from each other. Her company is about to launch a reverse mentoring program, providing older employees who have been with the company for 15-plus years the opportunity to be mentored by a younger employee who has only been in the company for a year, with the goal of lessening the divide between the two generations and showing each a different perspective.