January 7

Why it’s difficult to manage millennials and Gen Z (and how to do it better)


John, let’s face it.

You’re not well-liked in the team.

My boss paused for dramatic effect.

Inside me, I felt something snap.

How to manage millennials and Gen Z
The day I became the worst member of my team

Was I really that difficult to work with?

Was I such a pain?

If you’re reading this, you might be the boss of a millennial.

You know, those 25 to 35 year olds. Those who think they are hotshots.

I’m that 25-year-old person you might be working with.

I’m that 25-year-old who you might be facing difficulty with.

The purpose of this article isn’t to tell you how to be a boss.

Rather, it’s to share the thoughts running through the mind of a millennial as you manage them.

Are you ready?

Let’s go.

What’s a millennial?

How to manage millennials and Gen Z
You might just think your millennial is a show off.

Before we go into managing millennials, it’s important to get the dates right.

Millennials are those born between 1982 to 1996.

Today, those are the ones between 25 to 39 years of age.

They are the ones you are probably managing.

The ones who are entry or mid-level executives.

Why is it so hard to manage millennials?

Let’s face it.

Millennials aren’t easy to manage.

You might have your stereotypes of them.



Phone addicts.

The list goes on.

What else is there?

It is tempting to apply a broad brush to millennials.

It’s easy to say that they are this and that.

But are they?

Each millennial is different, unique, and it is hard to generalise.

Still, it’s useful to explain the context they grew up in, their history, in informing their present.

As you read these arguments, I would encourage you to see it as a way to inform your style of working with the millennial, rather than a way to confirm your suspicions of the millennial.

How to manage millennials and Gen Z
Ready to give up on your Gen Z? Have a little faith.

They grew up with Google.

A world without the Internet… is unimaginable for the millennial.

A world without Google?

It might be unsurvivable.

Type something in Google today, and it autocompletes your query.

Is this black magic?

Nope, it means that Google might know you better than you know yourself.

But the Google effect also means that millennials are used to faster turnaround times, quicker answers, and more certainty.

I was recently speaking with a young person about what she was planning to do next.

What if all the universities reject me?

Oh, I know, I can Google that.

She goes ahead to type in Google, “What to do if all universities reject me”. She starts reading Reddits, forums, and articles.

Millennials are used to having answers, and having them fast.

When Google can give them answers in a fraction of a second, why would they wait for you?

You might know this already – but not all answers are easy, nor clear.

It requires a discovery process.

That discovery process, for the millennial, might be new.

They grew up in a world where relationships are mediated by social media.

Remember the times when you had to pick up the phone to talk to someone?

I (used to) have a girlfriend when I was 12.

We would talk over the phone.

Sometimes, I would be so tired that I would fall asleep on the phone, whilst she went on.

It was no wonder that things didn’t work out.

When relationships are now mediated by social media, what changes?

The key shift is in how relationships have now increasingly moved to asynchronous forms of communication, rather than synchronous.

Simply put, asynchronous communications does not take place in real-time. These are things like email, WhatsApp and Facebook updates.

Synchronous communication takes place in realtime. These are your calls, video calls or your face to face meet-ups.

If you were thinking of instant messaging, where both of you are typing messages to each other… No, it’s not synchronous.

Synchronous communication allows for real-time interruptions. Butt-ins. Fillers like ummm-s, uh-s, huh-s.

In instant messaging, you or the other party is putting a message out, before the other person can respond or react.

The other shift has been how relationships are becoming more like peeks, rather than a process.

You might scroll through someone’s Instagram feed today, looking at the things they have updated on their newsfeed.

How to manage millennials and Gen Z
You might just feel like retrenching your millennial.

Are you relating to them, or are you peeking at their lives through the carefully curated newsfeed they have put out?

If you spent an hour over the week scrolling through a friend’s social media feed, do you really know him better?

If you spent an hour speaking to him over coffee, do you know him better?

You get the idea.

They grow up connected.

Have you found a millennial without a phone?

I found one.

During my time in England, I met a math PHD student.

He was 27.

He only communicated through email.

But the quality of the communications we had in real-life were transformative.

There were no pings, no notifications, no side-glances to the phone on the table.

It was unfiltered, unfettered conversation.

I loved it.

The flip side, is the millennial who’s always connected.

Phone on the table, picking it up whenever it goes.

So… what do I do now?

Seek first to understand, then to be understood.

Stephen Covey

If you don’t first understand millennials, you will find it hard for yourself to be understood.

Millennials can be impossible to manage.

But take heart.

You will get better at it, if you work at it.

You might wonder how this might lead you to work better with millennials.

In our next article, we share how you can use these insights to build better working relationships with millennials.


Are these observations true?

Do you notice others? Let me know your thoughts below!


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