The 40-Year-Old Millennial

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A few weeks ago I had a conversation with a colleague that brought up the ever present topic of millennials at work. After some discussion, I reminded this person that I was a millennial and they looked shocked. “I would never have suspected!” they said as if I had told them a deep dark secret. As it turns out, I just didn’t fit the mold of what this person expected of a millennial. I wasn’t whiny, self-centered, entitled, lazy, shall I go on?

This interaction happens to me all too often and I have heard similar stories from colleagues in the same age cohort. Generational stereotypes are a tricky thing. We tend to identify generational behaviors early on and then stick people in that behavior like a character in a play or a younger sibling. Somehow we can’t imagine them maturing, gaining experience, or growing up. We know that as of 2015 millennials make up the majority of the American workforce and as baby boomers continue to retire at increasingly rapid rates, their presence in our offices and organizations will be felt more every year.

At home, millennials are becoming the next generation of parents. Forty percent of them have already started families and 9,000 millennial women give birth every day. We are becoming a group that is growing into responsibility and authority while still being seen as a generation of youth and immaturity. At work, millennials are no longer only the interns and entry-level members of your team. They are growing up and stepping into the leadership roles that they have always craved. This generation has graduated to the decision-making ranks of leadership and it is necessary for organizations to see them in this new, more pragmatic space so that they can be given the tools needed to succeed.

The fact is that by 2020 the oldest millennials will turn 40.  
They (we) are not children anymore. 

Millennial managers have unique challenges caused by the rapid retirement of baby boomers. Many of them are moved quickly to management roles with little to no training. They frequently manage people who are older than they are, and, if they are still seen as the 21-year-old whiny child, they are often perceived as lacking the experience to be a “role-model”.

[Related: What younger managers should know about how they are perceived]

So, how is your organization planning for these new leaders and how will you help them succeed? After all, the success of your organization will depend on their ability to keep teams and projects moving forward smoothly and successfully. If you aren’t sure where to start, why not meet millennials where they are most comfortable, with community and personal development.

Loop your emerging millennials into the broader mission and growth plan for your business. We all know that millennials are mission driven, so let them know what the future holds for them and the organization. This might mean including those identified as high-potentials in more strategic meetings so that they can see the bigger picture as well as what their future might hold.

We know this cohort loves feedback and training, so give it to them! Developing the professional skills, outside of any industry specific skill-set, will be critical to bringing about a strong generation of leaders and managers. These new managers will be the rock of your organization in future years. Take advantage of their desire for growth and learning and provide them with tools for management, communication, leadership, and organizational planning to help them and the organization succeed.

We help new and experienced professionals become better managers and business leaders. Looking for ideas on how to support these initiatives in your organization? Give us a call, we would love to chat!

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