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Posted: November 01, 2010

On management: Here come the millenials

Is that good or bad?

Pat Wiesner

Millennials are people who came of age around and just before the year 2000. That would put them somewhere in their teens to mid-20s. That would make them our up-and-comers. These are the ones who will someday be the managers in our companies.

I was told by someone familiar with the matter (as they say in the Wall Street Journal), 
that they don't care much about the bosses. They grew up in families where they were always told they were perfect. They were assured both in school and at home that whatever they decided to do was fine, and they would be successful.

The problem is that if you tell them that what they are doing is not up to par, they may very well decide not to work for you at all.

Supposedly, Millennials don't take correction very well, don't have much loyalty to companies or businesses, and they don't respond the way you or I, the ancients, would respond.

Millennials like to be told how well they are doing, they are loyal to family rather than businesses, and they will quit at the drop of a better offer.

Also, from a Pew research report on the topic, most only have one phone (a cell and no landline), they largely don't read the newspaper, getting most of their news from the Internet and TV. And they text like crazy, play more video games, and many have a penchant for tattoos.

And as with most other groups like this, GenX, etc., they are not likely to change as they age. I've done my own little survey, and they seem not to wear wristwatches because they have the time on their cell phones.

You really can't blame them too much for their attitudes toward business after seeing their dad laid off after 30 years and then losing his retirement benefits because of the company's inability to pay forward and backward. And his or her mother had to go back to work while dad was having to work at Wal-Mart to make Social Security stretch.

The Millennials are probably going to be the first generation since the end of WWII where the children haven't made more money than their fathers made.

Every day we see stories about how China is growing and our exports are diminishing. Many truly doubt that the U.S. will remain the "Greatest Nation on Earth."
So how do we assist them as they grow into the management of the future?

I don't think they will need much help.

Management has a sort of self-healing element to it. If you're not doing it properly you usually can't be successful. If you are dishonest or even a corner-cutter with a big smile forced and false it will eventually minimize you.

And besides, it would be refreshing to have a turn toward a more family style of company management where people count as much as the bottom line. Who knows, it might lead to the next generation seeing something worth their loyalty in the companies that result.

For a long time it has seemed like the No. 1 justification for American business has been the price of the stock. Although many companies are beginning to think about our environment and their obligations regarding the problems ahead, I think that the globe and its people somehow need to be part of the equation.

Unions are too one-sided; government and others have no idea how to make a business work. This is critical because, at the end of the day, all the money to run government comes from taxes on wages and profits. Without profit there will be nowhere to get taxes.

So perhaps it will be a blessing to have a period where the ideas of Millennials help shape the future.
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Pat Wiesner is the retired CEO of WiesnerMedia, publisher of ColoradoBiz. He still leads sales training for the company. E-mail him at pwiesner@cobizmag.com.

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