Ah, millennials: the generation that has received more coverage than any other in the past few years.
They’re perpetual job-hoppers, they’re entitled, they’re not driven, they don’t have real goals, they’re lazy. One big millennials headline that we’ve left out? They’re hard to manage.
It may be true that some millennials require different management techniques from other age groups, but their different way of working doesn’t make them hard to manage. You just have to take time to understand them.
Check out our list of ways to mismanage millennials, written by a millennial:
1. Don’t give them opportunities to learn.
One key element that millennials look for in a new employer? The opportunity to grow.
Some millennials are coming into the workforce right out of college without learning what they need to know about life, much less the professional fields they’re entering.
Giving millennials, even those above entry level, chances to develop their knowledge and skills continually will benefit you and your team.
When your employees are constantly learning, they can be better at their jobs and make better-informed decisions, which in turn benefits your business.
Those who complain that millennials are fickle and don’t stay at jobs long enough are probably not offering enough growth momentum and a future that their young employees can believe in.
2. Don’t give them opportunities to branch out of their usual duties.
Often the expectations and parameters of a specific role are set and outlined before the job begins.
That doesn’t mean a millennial doesn’t want the opportunity to try performing cross-departmental tasks or take on a pet project of their own.
A new hire who comes in for a job in sales or operations might have a hidden passion for writing and can contribute to the company blog. Maybe your new account executive has an interest in the environment and can lead the charge to make your office more sustainable.
These days, limiting your employees to their specific roles can squander opportunities to find their strong suits and make your working environment fun, inclusive and dynamic.
Additionally, cross-training opportunities between departments can help you create well-rounded employees who will contribute on multiple levels.
Especially if you run a small business, finding and hiring millennials who can become jacks-of-all-trades will help you immensely when there is a pressing issue requiring all hands on deck.
3. Assume they have nothing better to do than spend 80 hours a week doing menial tasks.
Don’t want your company to be a revolving door of young 20-somethings who seem to leave soon after they start? Then value each and every staffer, entry-level employees included.
Top talent wants to work with other top talent, so you have to offer responsibility and fulfillment to your workers, at least some of the time, to cultivate and thus attract superstars.
When you treat millennials as dispensable or give them all the menial tedious tasks, they’ll get the hint and quickly hunt for more meaningful work.
Recent studies have also shown that millennials are caring increasingly about work/life balance. Blame it on all those Instagram inspirational quotes about travel and freedom, but the newest additions to this country’s workforce want to work to live, not live to work.
If your expectations are that your young workers have the time and energy to slave away for you, you couldn’t be more wrong. If you absolutely need people who will put in overtime, make sure they see what they will get in return.
4. Only delegate work.
Millennials can take direction, sure, but to see them reach their full potential, don’t simply delegate tasks to them. Instead, ask them for input, or let them take part in the whole process.
Hand-holding on the job is what plagues companies with inefficiency and overlapping duties, leading to redundancy.
By letting millennial employees make decisions or operate with minimal oversight, you can create strong colleagues whom you can trust and who take pride in their work.
There might be some swim-or-sink moments, but by teaching millennials that failure isn’t ruinous, they will continue to take risks, learn along the way and potentially come up with great ideas from their unique perspectives.
If you want to be seen as a leader and not just a manager, trust that you are setting up your millennial employees for success by giving them the tools they need to do their jobs well.
5. Assume they are entitled/lazy/(insert stereotype here).
Millennials sometimes get a bad rap.
We’ve all seen the open letters penned by self-righteous millennials who whine to the CEO of their company about pay and hours. They are the exception, not the rule. Remember that the current millennial generation is the most highly educated generation in history.
They were told that if they graduated from good schools, they’d be guaranteed good jobs. The market became oversaturated, though, and many millennials find it’s much harder to find a good-paying job than they were led to believe.
It’s not a sense of entitlement that most of them hold; it’s a feeling of being tricked. That’s why most are willing to go above and beyond to secure a job and excel at it.
Ultimately, the biggest mistake you can make when managing millennials is to assume they have to be managed or treated differently from anyone else.
It’s not just millennials who want learning opportunities, unique responsibilities, a work-life balance, self-direction and the benefit of the doubt. We would argue pretty much all members of the workforce want these things; it just might be that millennials are the most vocal about it.
The U.S. job market is transforming. With more jobs and companies being digitized, and with company culture shedding the rigid expectations of corporate America, millennials are simply the ushers of the new working culture that affects all of us.
With so many diverse backgrounds, incredibly impressive educations and unique experiences, millennials are a force to be reckoned with and will continue to be so.
Bill Faeth is president of Inbound Marketing Agents , an innovative Hubspot Gold partner based in Nashville, Tennessee. A version of this article first appeared on Business2Community.