‘My boss thinks we’re different species’: What millennials talk about when they talk about their managers

This is Ask a Millennial, where we ask our focus group of under-30 agency and brand employees one question, and trade anonymity for candor.

Nobody reads quite as much millennial-related research, perhaps, as the people who manage them. In four years, reports Harvard Business Review, millennials will account for almost half of the entire world’s workforce, a staggering stat that no doubt strikes fear into the hearts of their outnumbered Gen X managers. With that in mind, we asked our focus group what they thought of their bosses, and what they could do better.

Responses have been edited and condensed.

Female, 27, creative
Sometimes, I think my boss thinks we’re different species. She’s really down on young people and thinks that millennials are self-centered and need a lot of attention, and at the same time does not trust her employees to handle themselves right or do their jobs. But she hired us. So she needs to know that while we may not be like her, we’re not exactly from a different planet. We’re human too. Not all of us are entitled and lazy. Not all of us want to be promoted in three months. Not all of us are irresponsible.

Male, 25, strategy
We need feedback, and lots of it, almost to a fault. Often times, managers and bosses don’t realize the impact a simple check-in or chat with an employee can actually make. Because our generation is so eager to climb to the top right away, getting feedback feels like progress in one form or another which is why we ask for it so much. I think that gets lost on some bosses.

Male, 27, creative
I’ve had such a wide range of managers, it’s been dizzying. On the negative side, some have been so totally disconnected from doing good work that I found it impossible to connect with them. They were either “retiring” at a crap agency or just not very talented. On the positive side, I’ve found managers who share my passion and hunger and drive to make wonderful things. Those are the people I love working with and working for. And that shared hunger allows them to be empathetic to what I need from my career. The best managers I’ve had are as thrilled for my creative successes as they would be for their own.

Female, 26, account
I’m pretty fortunate in that my bosses are receptive to millennials. They are fairly young themselves, in their early 30s, and have a good understanding of and respect for the younger generation.

My boss has always been respectful of my life outside of work, and as long as I get my work done, it hasn’t been an issue. We’ve also hung out outside of work for drinks, dinner with other coworkers, so I would consider him a boss as well as a mentor and friend. We even made a video for him for his birthday last year. Tears were shed, but no raise was given.

Male, 24, copywriter
My manager is also a millennial. She’s 28. We understand each other, since we’re of the same generation.


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