The eldest millennials will soon be turning 40. Born anywhere from the early 1980s to the late 1990s, they now represent the largest generational segment in today’s workforce. Raised in the internet age and entering the workforce around the time of the global economic crisis, this so-called ‘me generation’ are becoming a powerful force within many organizations.
But despite their generational dominance, millennials continue to frustrate and confound. Narcissistic, entitled and demanding are just a few of the accusations levelled at them by the media. With an abiding reputation for disengagement, disinterest and distracted approach to work, they still demand high levels of trust and freedom. Difficult to attract and even more difficult to retain, their preference for flat corporate structures and flexible working options present a challenge to prevailing corporate culture.
Millennials, in turn, may feel equally bewildered by the attitudes of their teammates. As a generation who entered the workplace at the turn of the century, they fail to understand the 20th century culture of compliance and emphasis on ‘doing my best’ valued by others.
The business climate into which millennials entered the workforce has been beset by change, which includes a global financial crisis and technology-based disruptions across nearly every industry. Marked by change and uncertainty, this environment calls for a different way of working. It requires a more flexible, responsive and agile approach, so that better decisions can be made more quickly. It also requires a more congruent leadership approach.
Any model of leadership marked by a command-and-control mindset is unappealing to the average millennial. They want work with meaning and purpose. They want productive and fulfilling work with a clear path to promotion. They want development and freedom to get on with the job.
Perhaps, then, millennials are pointing the way to a more effective leadership model fit for this world. A leadership approach that emphasises alignment rather than control, one that builds upon trust-based relationships between managers and team members.
Is this really so unreasonable?