Millennial…It’s Not a Bad Word

Earlier this month, I attended a leadership training geared towards local elected officials from across North Carolina. Throughout my career, I have often found myself to be the youngest in the room, and this situation was no exception; I was surrounded by County Commissioners and Board of Education leaders, 15 to 20 years my senior.

One of the participants was a successful small business owner. In one of our breakout sessions, I made a comment about how valuable our millennial workforce is, and there it was…the eye roll; the eye roll followed by comments of, “They are so tough to work with! They have such terrible work ethic!” For the next five minutes, I shared benefits of millennial employees based on my own experiences leading teams of them, and made suggestions of how to best utilize their abilities. This is not the first time that I have had this conversation, and it’s maddening to see how skewed perceptions can be.

Depending on which article you read, I am considered a young Gen X, an old millennial, or sometimes, I’m classified as a xennial (a microgeneration born in the late 70’s, early 80’s). As a professional, it’s an interesting place to be, and provides me with unique perspective; I value the knowledge and experience that Traditionalists and Boomers bring to the table, I recognize the work ethic and drive of Gen X, and I also understand the talents and motivators of the millennial and Gen Z populations. Collectively, these different mindsets, knowledge, and strengths can be leveraged for maximum impact and productivity if capitalized on; however, I’ve observed that getting five generations to collaborate in the workplace can be a huge challenge, particularly when leaders struggle to overcome their own assumptions when managing diverse teams.

We all have natural bias, and that can cause us to determine ability and intelligence, simply based on what we see; if something is familiar to us and our personal experiences, it’s easier to build trust. However, if we let that guide our decision making, and limit opportunities for those that look or think differently than we do, we are missing out, and our businesses will suffer. Millennials now make up close to 50% of the US workforce, and Gen Z is entering at a rapid pace. As leaders, it is imperative that we welcome and empower this new generation of innovative, passionate, and flexible workforce WITHOUT assumptions and an eye roll.

To help leaders overcome generational differences, WNY People Development has created a training course to answer this specific need. “Managing the Multigenerational Workplace” will teach leaders the “what” and “why” of work styles, Boomers to Gen Z; additionally, we will share strategies to help leverage and capitalize on the diverse strengths and differences each group brings to the office. Please contact us at to schedule, and start highlighting your company’s multigenerational strengths today!