Whether you are a millennial yourself (and could use some self-awareness about your age group), or an older person scratching your head about how to deal with them, here’s some practical insights for working with millennials:


  • Highly value relationships. It’s all about connecting with others and having dialogue. Work environments that are hierarchical and only focus on the task (while neglecting social aspects) are very unappealing.
  • Often grew up in nurturing, safe environments. Many of their boomer/ GenX parents gave them lots of praise and affirmation.
  • Know there are endless opportunities out there for them. Whether it be possible trips and adventures to go on, schools to apply for, or jobs to get, millennials often feel overwhelmed or are indecisive. (This indecision is connected to “FOMO”: fear of missing out. When one option is selected, the millennial fears that he/she will miss out on something else equally or more valuable than the chosen option).
  • Have teachable spirits. They want to learn, and, though the older generation may doubt it, desperately want advice from older, more experienced adults.
  • Expect quick response time. In a cyber world of constant digital interaction and feedback, millennials are accustomed to getting response and answers nearly instantaneously. If they don’t hear from you within 48 hours, they wonder why you aren’t getting back to them.

If you work with millennials or will in the future, here are some tips:

  • Embrace the fact that you are different than them. Some say that inter-generational relationships today are more like cross-cultural relationships because of the differences in ways of interacting, values, and tastes.
  • Be affirming. When you see growth or potential in them, encourage them and let them know. Affirmation and recognition go a long way.
  • Be honest. When you don’t know something, admit it. Doing so shows transparency and humility, which are both highly valued among millennials.
  • Explain why. If you establish rules but don’t explain why, millennials will feel frustrated or resentful. When you give them the reasoning, especially if it is for their good or the good of your team/community, they will likely be happy to comply. Millennials are known for being teachable, so if you explain things in a winsome way, they will often change their behavior.
  • Have fun! Millennials enjoy a good time, laughter, and adventure. You’ll grow in friendship if you look for ways to enjoy the journey with them.

Insights are from Jolene Erlacher, who specializes in training organizations to develop strong inter-generational communication. Check out her website at www.leadingtomorrow.org.

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