Your fellow Millennials

Derek Knights
Monday February 12, 2018
Written by Derek Knights
Bruce Tulgan’s new volume is the revised, updated version of his similarly titled “Not Everyone Gets A Trophy – How to Manage Generation Y” I reviewed almost nine years ago.

It’s time to revisit it in this new edition subtitled “How to Manage the Millennials.”

Tulgan is a lawyer and management consultant specializing in “generational diversity.” He’s observant, too.

Almost everyone born in first-world societies since about 1990 grew up with a computer in the house and as a learning tool at school.

School was likely the last place they picked up a book made of paper. Electronic devices were a primary mode of communication —none likely used a phone with a cord after five years old. Parenting was collaborative and children were equal (or nearly) partners in decision-making.

Facing challenges in funding and enrollment, universities morphed from institutions of higher education to quasi-agents of corporate and private sponsors and promoted the “customer experience” to attract tuition dollars. It seems they graduate students more from an obligation to a contract than to provide an adequately educated person to society.

Dinosaurs like me may bemoan a dearth in the depth of knowledge in this generation in the workplace but we are the annoying minority now. The older of these “kids” are approaching 30 and increasingly in management positions in major corporations.

They dislike it if we point out what they don’t know and remind us that “if I need to know it I can find it in 15 seconds if the Wi-Fi is decent.” It’s hard to argue with that.

Tulgan tells us “millennials are NOT a bunch of disloyal, delicate, lazy, greedy, disrespectful inappropriate slackers with short attention spans” but people who “want leaders who take them seriously … who set them up for success … not leaders who humour them (and) pretend they are succeeding no matter what…”

He backs that up with 10 fascinating and informative chapters that draw you in like mystery thrillers and evoke emotions like anger and frustration but still reveal a satisfying resolution.

He shows what today’s business leaders need to learn through stories and examples from both the long-term infrastructure (we dinosaurs) and millennials themselves. Each time you recognize yourself, it’s a little humbling.

We are not the bad guys but neither are the millennials. Tulgan describes what each side needs to do to blend two distinctly different “mettles” into one strong alloy. Each needs to melt and harden and some of the chapters, such as “Give Them the Gift of Context”; “Teach Them How to Manage Themselves”; “Teach Them How to Be Managed by You”; and “Retain the Best of Them, One Day at a Time” describe how to do that.

Here’s a challenge I predict, though.  It will be hard to get your senior managers to read this book with an inquisitive, open mind, and learn from it.

But many will. Millennials perhaps won’t. But keep pushing. It’s the best way to see into the minds of the others — and the stories in this book are from both sides of a still-spinning coin.

I reread this book (delighted to find it had been updated) after reviewing the excellent “The Death of Expertise: The Campaign Against Established Knowledge and Why it Matters,” by Tom Nichols.  At the time, I recommended business managers read Tulgan’s book.  I’m mirroring that recommendation here.   

Derek Knights, CPP, CISSP, CFE CIPP/C, PCI, is the senior manager, strategic initiatives, global security and investigations, at the TD Bank Group (www.tdbank.com).

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