Ten Things Baby Boomer Bosses Need To Know About Millennials

Author note: this list was composed based on my own experiences, my observations in the workplace, and input from fellow Millennials. If you are a millennial and I missed something or got something wrong, feel free to add or correct me in a comment below. If you are a baby boomer, this is honest advice with a little bit of tongue in cheek humor tossed in the mix. Enjoy!

            M i l l e n n i a l s …

1) We Get bored easily.

CC  Image  by  Joi Ito

CC Image by Joi Ito

If we think we have grasped what you are talking about or we think we understand the main ideas in a meeting, we will get bored and start working on something else. That’s why we are on our phones so much, because we are working on something. We are reading blog posts, crafting emails, following work related trends, looking up information about what is being talked about so we can make informed comments or ask compelling questions. Okay, we are sometimes looking at pictures of a friend’s lunch or texting co-workers who are in similar boring meetings, but most of the time we are trying to be somewhat productive in this long mandatory meeting you made us come to.


2) We think we can multitask, and some of us have gotten good at almost getting it down.

We know multitasking is nearly impossible. Although it may look like multitasking, we are really working on one thing at a time, using other projects to give us a break. This is why we are in the middle of five things at once on three different technology platforms. We know how to use our time. If there is a lull in one task, we move on to the next project, returning to the first later when it is ready for us. We are super productive, and with the right encouragement and support, we can be a real asset to you. If you don’t give us enough freedom or the proper encouragement, we will still be just as productive, but two of the five things we are doing will not be something work related.


3) We like to research.

We love being informed. We love knowing all the new tips and trends. We know exactly what Hillary Clinton is thinking right now because she just tweeted it. We know that those shoes you are wearing were popular 13 years ago and will probably be in style again in five years, but for now. . .  

We know who our employer is in competition with.  We know what our competition is doing better than our employer and if they are hiring. We keep up on the top trend in our field, as you should too.

Although we think we know a lot, we don’t always know what to do with that information – and this is where you come in.


4) Don’t even try to compare your lives to ours.

We get it. You had to work really hard in the 1980s. But telling us you had it harder (or easier) than us is just going to piss us off.

Comparing peoples’ lives is not possible. We Millennials learned about this in the mandatory Gen Ed Sociology class we had to take during our undergrad (we are all different and come from a variety of backgrounds; no two of use are alike, therefore we shall not judge – Any School’s Liberal Arts Program). In our Gen Ed Psychology class, we learned that when people compare themselves to others, this person is trying to exude dominance because they feel threatened. But this isn’t why we are frustrated. It’s because it messes up our mindfulness mojo. The reason why we go to our weekly yoga class is to get away from this toxic kind of thinking. We all have value, and no one should feel undermined. And that’s how you make us feel when you say your life was harder than ours or we are more privileged. If you disagree, see point number seven.


5) We are emotional.

We are not afraid of failing as much as we are afraid of looking bad. We do want to hear your feedback. But start off by telling us something we are doing well (be honestly, don’t tell us you like something if it’s not true) and then offer constructive criticism in the areas we need to improve.

This is where Machiavelli was wrong, it’s better to be loved than feared because if we don’t like you we won’t produce. If you aren’t adding value to our career path and helping us grow, we are going to go somewhere that will.


6) We kind of, sorta, maybe have a hard time asking for help.

You may need to ask us if we need help five times in five different ways before we admit to running into some trouble. Smile and give us a break man, we are beating ourselves up inside and will eventually come around. And here’s the balancing act: don’t try to give us too much help up front or else we will think you don’t have confidence in us.

If you have an employee who asks for help all the time, consider yourself lucky and use this to your advantage. Instead of telling us what to do (which we love and you love because it solves problems in the short run) give us advice on how to solve the issue and let us figure it out on our own. This way we will know what to do in the future and will not have to ask you again. In addition, our fellow Millennials will probably ask us a similar question and we will be able to teach our new knowledge to them.


7) We are snarky and like to push your buttons.

Perhaps it’s because we were raised with an emphasis on critical thinking, or it may be that we grew up watching too many dramatic reality television shows? Whatever the case may be, we call people out on their bullsh*t regardless of our position in the corporate caste system. We understand that bullshit helps people cope with failure and acceptance, which we also struggle with. But there is so much bullshit in our lives we have to wade though already, we can only deal with so much. So when we smell yours, we will call you out on it.

And you should do us a favor by calling us out on our delicately crafted bullshit too (hey, sometimes it takes a lot of work making good bullshit).


8) Money is nice, but making a difference is better.

Many Millennials want to have a stable home life and afford nice things, but we don’t dream of becoming millionaires or being famous or having a bunch of free time (ugh, such a Gen X trend). We care more about our impact on the world, mostly environmental issues, social issues, and global healthcare. We want our work to mean something and make a difference in the world that is greater than ourselves.


9) We don’t read full articles--and why should we?

Most Millennials haven’t made it this far down in the post (and they won’t). Some of us may have skimmed the subheaders, but most of us have the basic idea of where this is going and have either closed the window, tweeted it, or started writing a response (yup, without even reading it all).  So I’m talking directly to you BB’s. Keep things short and to the point. That’s why we have Twitter. We only want the headlines. We don’t have time for anything else. We’re young and, “we got places to be.” 


10) We would love to get a cup of coffee with you.

Millennials are eager to learn the tricks of the trade and learn how you got to where you are now (as long as you keep number four in mind). We would love to sit down with you for an informal conversation in a non-threatening public space so we will feel more open to share our goals with you. Sitting at your office reminds some of us of the principal’s office and being in trouble. We know you are our manager or boss, but we want to meet you on a more human level without the hierarchy getting in the way. The hierarchy is implied and we totally respect you.

Want to grab a cup this week?



Andrew J. Wilt
SEI Junior Consultant 
Apprenticeship Program