Studying the impact of innovation on business and society

Help! My Boss Is a Millennial (and I’m not)

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Guest post by  Liza Bennigson (#StartupMom), a non-millennial’s take on the millennial mindset

I’m not your typical start-up employee. I’m 37 with two young kids, and I still have an iPhone 5. My idea of a wild night is staying up till 11pm to watch The Voice.

My boss, the CEO and co-founder of our start-up, is 26. Constantly on the go, Jayne Ronayne can talk, type, text, walk and drink coffee at the same time. She is at some networking event or another most nights of the week, and wears Chuck Taylor high-tops to the office. She is, undeniably, a millennial.

It’s been said that millennials are narcissists. My first six months on the job, I was trying to keep Jayne’s pace and win the elusive “mom of the year award,” and it was taking its toll. At a particularly weak moment, I asked Jayne if I could work part-time. While I’m pretty sure she thinks “part-time” means working full-time with the kids at home, she is empathetic and flexible. That said, she expects her team to put the company’s needs at a very close second to our families’. This is less about narcissism as it is a fervent commitment to our success.

It’s been said that millennials are entitled. Jayne will contact anyone, anywhere, of any rank, and expect to get a response. But this is less out of a sense of entitlement as it is straight up tenacity. As a female founder, she knows she might have to work twice as hard to prove herself. She expects to do well in life, but only by earning it. It is this doggedness that has led her to be named one of Ireland’s Top 30 under 30 and our company to be chosen as one of the world’s top 25 startups in the Extreme Tech Challenge. Before meeting Jayne, I was content with contentedness. The millennial drive is contagious, and I’ll never again settle for mediocrity.

It’s been said that millennials are impulsive. This is a refreshing change from my previous life in academia, where a decision to change the status quo could easily take six months. Jayne moves quickly, but thoughtfully. While we try to make most decisions in front of a white board, we often resort to email or Slack or Skype. If you’re not “on call” and constantly connected, you might miss the opportunity to weigh in. We are all constantly connected, and we’re okay with that.

It’s been said that millennials are disloyal. Jayne makes decisions that are best for the company, not necessarily herself. Sometimes this means making changes, hiring or otherwise, that are hard to swallow. While I’m used to stability and predictability, Jayne is constantly evaluating whether team members and processes are the right fit at the right time and, if not, is comfortable letting go. She considers it in no one’s best interest to draw out an inevitable mismatch.

It’s been said that millennials are cheap. Sure, I was frustrated when it took me almost a year to get my own laptop and I have to pay my own health insurance, but last time I checked, a slow burn rate was a good thing. Let’s call it frugal.

Next year, more than 3.6 million baby boomers are set to retire and more than one-fourth of millennial workers will become managers. The characteristics commonly used to depict this up-and-coming generation might be less misconceptions than misinterpretations. If positioned correctly, these traits can translate into incredibly adept, impassioned and courageous leaders from whom we all––millennials or not––have a lot to learn.

About the author: Liza Bennigson is the Director of Business Development at KonnectAgain, an emerging alumni engagement software for corporations and universities. She enjoys writing, running, travel and dance parties with her kids.

7 COMMENTS ON THIS POST To “Help! My Boss Is a Millennial (and I’m not)”

  1. Haggie says:

    Generally, millennials are just young adults that still act like high school students or college freshmen. Just think of them as 5-7 years less mature than their biological age. When you see them for what they are, it becomes very easy to deal with them.

    Luckily, this immaturity will quickly evaporate as they get older and realize that they aren’t the special little snowflakes that mommy and daddy told them they were.

  2. PeterJ42 says:

    Think of this another way round. When someone is connected 24/7 to better sources of information, they can act faster, collaborate better, move quickly away from suppliers who aren’t doing a good job and buy better products for less. Perhaps “cheap, disloyal, impulsive, entitled and narcissistic” are just your attempt to discredit anyone who is better than you. And to persuade yourself that your old ways are just fine and you don’t need to learn new ones.

  3. Gordon says:

    Sad commentary. But we all need to rationalize our lives. Paying your own health insurance is certainly frugal, another way of putting it is highly advantageous – just not for you. Puts me in mind of Foucault’s definition of fascism as a force that leads us “to desire the very thing that dominates and exploits us.”

  4. Don’t you just love the way disruptive capitalism is shaping the future of the middle east? What I mean to say is as we in the West dream of “Zero-tech” ie zero emissions, zero calories, blah blah blah, it is in fact War and Zero interest that makes much of this innovation possible. The Gorilla in the corner is waiting for his dinner.

  5. This is a neat article. As a millennial myself, I can appreciate the benefits and pitfalls in our generation and how each characteristic can be seen in a positive or negative light.

  6. Mary Beth Lowman Hewitt says:

    What great perspective – As I look for my next career adventure, the reality that I may be working for Jayne was slightly daunting, but your article is refreshing and reassuring – nothing but opportunity, whether I am working for a millennial or a CEO with 40 years in the biz. Thanks Liza!

  7. gary simmons says:

    From a single example you draw a world of conclusion. First, talk to hundreds of ceo’s and managers and get their opinions. Throw out the highs and lows and what’s left is the sterotype of any generation. Your boss is like any other great Entrepreneur. It doesnt’ mean every Millennials is one too.

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