8 HR Mis­takes Mil­len­nial Lead­ers Need To Avoid


Ac­cord­ing to a 2015 study con­ducted by PEW Re­search, over 33% of the Amer­i­can work­force is com­prised by Mil­len­ni­als. That makes Mil­len­ni­als the sin­gle largest gen­er­a­tion work­ing to­day. For those who don’t know, the Mil­len­nial gen­er­a­tion is de­fined as peo­ple born be­tween 1981 to 1997, as of 2015 there are over 80 mil­lion Mil­len­ni­als liv­ing in the United States.

Given that Mil­len­ni­als are such a large part of the work­force, it comes as no sur­prise that an in­creas­ing num­ber of Mil­len­ni­als are as­sum­ing lead­er­ship roles in com­pa­nies of all sizes. Mil­len­ni­als gen­er­ally have a num­ber of great traits for the work­place, an open mind, in­tense am­bi­tion, and a de­sire to col­lab­o­rate with peers.

That said, Mil­len­ni­als also tend to make a few com­mon work­place mis­takes that if cor­rected, can help any Mil­len­nial leader be a bet­ter boss, and ad­vance through the ranks more quickly. Here are 8 com­mon HR mis­takes to avoid.

1. Be­ing A Friend First And A Man­ager Sec­ond

Since Mil­len­ni­als tend to pre­fer work­ing en­vi­ron­ments that are less hi­er­ar­chi­cal and more flat, some Mil­len­nial lead­ers of­ten make the mis­take of view­ing col­leagues as friends first. This is a mis­cal­cu­la­tion that can lead to HR is­sues.

Some of to­day’s most suc­cess­ful com­pa­nies suf­fer from un­pro­fes­sional HR habits that come about when man­agers think of em­ploy­ees as friends in­stead of col­leagues. For ex­am­ple, a man­ager who thinks it’s ok to make an off-color joke at work will end up alien­at­ing the em­ploy­ees he or she is charged with lead­ing.

Fur­ther­more, trust­ing in “friend­ship” has caused many in­stances of mil­len­nial lead­ers leav­ing an­gry and in­ap­pro­pri­ate mes­sages to their em­ploy­ees via email, text and Slack. Never think­ing that those mes­sages may one day come back and haunt them, mil­len­ni­als don’t feel the need as much as older gen­er­a­tions to pick up the phone or meet with a sub­or­di­nate one on one in per­son. The re­sult: mis­com­mu­ni­ca­tion among the or­ga­ni­za­tion and a huge risk for the HR depart­ment to deal with.

Suc­cess­ful Mil­len­nial man­agers un­der­stand that be­ing friendly at work and mak­ing mean­ing­ful con­nec­tions with col­leagues is dif­fer­ent than treat­ing col­leagues like friends. At the end of the day work­ing re­la­tion­ships must be based on what best serves the goals and needs of the busi­ness, Mil­len­ni­als who un­der­stand this and who are able to man­age sub­or­di­nates ap­pro­pri­ately will be more suc­cess­ful than those who treat col­leagues like friends first.

2. Only Hir­ing Can­di­dates Who Share A Com­mon Back­ground

The Kel­logg School of Man­age­ment at North­west­ern Univer­sity re­cently con­ducted a study about im­plicit hir­ing bias among hir­ing man­agers at elite com­pa­nies. The study con­cluded that in­deed hir­ing man­agers did hold im­plicit (mean­ing sub­con­scious) bi­ases that fa­vored can­di­dates who shared

cer­tain traits with the hir­ing man­ager. This not only lead to work­places that were less di­verse than they could have been, but it also caused hir­ing man­agers to over­look highly tal­ented can­di­dates.

De­spite their rep­u­ta­tion for be­ing more egal­i­tar­ian and open minded, Mil­len­nial hir­ing man­agers are still all too likely to al­low shared so­cioe­co­nomic back­ground to in­flu­ence hir­ing de­ci­sions.

In or­der to min­i­mize the im­pact of im­plicit bias in hir­ing, con­sider es­tab­lish­ing a blind panel of hir­ing man­agers who de­cide on each can­di­date’s wor­thi­ness based on pre­vi­ous per­for­mance, and an as­sess­ment. Try to min­i­mize in­for­ma­tion that in­cludes so­cioe­co­nomic in­di­ca­tors as much as pos­si­ble.

3. Fail­ing To Run High-Qual­ity One-On-One Meet­ings

The one-on-one meet­ing is the only time a man­ager can share and re­ceive mean­ing­ful feed­back with a sub­or­di­nate in a con­sis­tent and struc­tured way. Yet too few Mil­len­nial man­agers make use of one-on-one meet­ings.

Ben Horowitz, a part­ner of the fa­mous VC firm, An­dreessen Horowitz, felt so strongly about the im­por­tance of one-on-one meet­ings that he wrote

about it on the com­pany blog and in­cluded an en­tire chap­ter about it in his book The Hard Thing About Hard Things.

Ac­cord­ing to Horowitz the best oneon-one meet­ings al­low both the leader and the sub­or­di­nate an op­por­tu­nity to share can­did feed­back. Fol­low­ing feed­back, there should be a sys­tem in place to en­sure that any ac­tion items that arise from the meet­ing ac­tu­ally hap­pen.

4. Com­mu­ni­cat­ing In­ap­pro­pri­ately With A Sub­or­di­nate

Uber has been in the news fre­quently over the past few years both be­cause of the com­pany’s amaz­ing growth, and be­cause a num­ber of lead­ers at the or­ga­ni­za­tion failed to com­mu­ni­cate ap­pro­pri­ately with sub­or­di­nates.

Susan Fowler, a for­mer Uber soft­ware en­gi­neer re­counted a num­ber of try­ing ex­pe­ri­ences she had at the com­pany in which Mil­len­nial man­agers made sex­ist or in­ap­pro­pri­ate com­ments that even­tu­ally lead to her res­ig­na­tion in or­der to es­cape the toxic work en­vi­ron­ment. Cer­tainly Ms. Fowler was tempted to send an an­gry email to a num­ber of her man­agers, but in­stead she penned a re­veal­ing blog post about her ex­pe­ri­ence.

Sim­i­lar to point num­ber one, it is crit­i­cal that Mil­len­nial man­agers un­der­stand that em­ploy­ees are col­leagues first and friends sec­ond - com­mu­ni­cat­ing in­ap­pro­pri­ately will cost com­pa­nies top tal­ent, cause PR night­mares, and worst of all, cause se­ri­ous psy­cho­log­i­cal harm to who are vic­tims of in­ap­pro­pri­ate work­place com­mu­ni­ca­tion.

5. Ne­glect­ing To Set Clear Ex­pec­ta­tions From The Be­gin­ning

Em­ploy­ees are most suc­cess­ful when they are given clear guide­lines about what is ex­pected of them. Con­straints don’t limit cre­ativ­ity, they in­spire it. Mil­len­nial man­agers should re­mem­ber that when kick­ing off a new ini­tia­tive it is best to be­gin work­ing by out­lin­ing clear goals, dead­lines and ex­pec­ta­tions.

To get in the habit of set­ting clear ex­pec­ta­tions, Mil­len­nial lead­ers should con­sider mak­ing sure that each project has a spe­cific ca­dence that pro­vides a fo­rum for ex­pec­ta­tion set­ting. Typ­i­cally a kick­off meet­ing, a sta­tus up­date meet­ing and a de­brief meet­ing is a good for­mat to en­sure ex­pec­ta­tions are clearly com­mu­ni­cated.

6. Over­look­ing The In­cred­i­ble Im­por­tance Of Good Train­ing

The for­mer CEO of In­tel, Andy Grove wrote a sem­i­nal book ev­ery leader should read called High Out­put Man­age­ment. In the book, Grove dis­cussed the var­i­ous ways lead­ers can make a mean­ing­ful im­pact on their or­ga­ni­za­tions. Grove de­voted an en­tire chap­ter to train­ing, in it he ar­gued that train­ing sub­or­di­nates is one of the most im­por­tant jobs ev­ery man­ager has.

Train­ing al­lows man­agers to cre­ate greater lever­age for them­selves and for their or­ga­ni­za­tions to make mean­ing­ful progress to­ward com­pany goals. Too few Mil­len­nial lead­ers shirk the re­spon­si­bil­ity of prop­erly train­ing sub­or­di­nates. Sim­ply put, there is no sub­sti­tute for struc­tured train­ing, Mil­len­nial lead­ers should build a struc­ture cur­ricu­lum that en­lists the help of top per­form­ers al­ready on the team.

7. De­valu­ing The Im­por­tance Of Work-Life Bal­ance

It’s com­mon for Mil­len­nial lead­ers to be goal ori­ented and am­bi­tious peo­ple. This can of­ten re­sult in poor per­sonal work-life bal­ance, and while it is fine for an in­di­vid­ual to forgo per­son re­spon­si­bil­i­ties, for oth­ers this is sim­ply not pos­si­ble.

Some of the best or­ga­ni­za­tions re­al­ize that pro­vid­ing em­ploy­ees with a healthy work-life bal­ance helps to re­cruit and re­tain top-tal­ent. Am­bi­tious Mil­len­nial man­agers need to rec­og­nize the im­por­tance of be­ing flex­i­ble, and al­low­ing sub­or­di­nates to take care of per­sonal or fam­ily obli­ga­tions while also en­sur­ing that the nec­es­sary work is get­ting done.

8. Cre­at­ing Avoid­able Re­sent­ment Among Older Col­leagues

In­creas­ingly younger and more tech savvy Mil­len­ni­als are as­sum­ing lead­er­ship roles. This can mean that older em­ploy­ees are be­ing man­aged by younger Mil­len­ni­als.

While sub­or­di­nates must learn to put any feel­ings of awk­ward­ness or re­sent­ment be­hind them, Mil­len­nial man­agers can also work to help calm re­sent­ments by ac­knowl­edg­ing con­tri­bu­tions made by older em­ploy­ees.

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