By Deep Patel
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 led 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 one-on-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 led 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.