“I have a Millennial Manager and I work SO much harder!”

start up meeting in co working office.jpg s1024x1024wisk20cMomhLC4t9m0FYyWDxVyZfxjpjI | "I have a Millennial Manager and I work SO much harder!"
By Anthony Wolny | 4th March 2024 | 10 min read

"I just upgraded to a millennial manager, and it's genuinely one of the best things that's happened to me at work," one commentor says on TikTok.

If you’ve been on social media this year, chances are you’ve seen viral videos referencing a new HR trend: the Millennial Manager.

In these videos (which you can find examples of here and here), the creator plays a “Millennial Manager”, portraying the newly rising workplace archetype.

Many commenters praise the Millennial Manager, exclaiming that they have found their ‘perfect manager’, positively reflect on a previous manager who shares these traits or bemoan that their current manager isn’t a Millennial Manager.

However, some media outlets have taken a not-so-positive view, claiming the Millennial Manager is a wolf in sheep’s clothing or simply trying too hardto be cool.

Well, what’s the deal? In this blog, we’ll take a look at the trend and what it truly means to be a Millennial Manager.

What is a Millennial Manager?

A Millennial Manager is a member of the Millennial generation (someone born between 1981 and 1996) who holds a management position within an organisation.

Millennial Managers are said to bring a unique set of characteristics and values to the workplace, shaped by their upbringing, education and experiences.

They’re typically known for their tech-savviness, adaptability to change, collaboration, emphasis on wellbeing and emotional intelligence.

Out of all these traits, the emphasis in these viral videos and what commenters tend to call out is the focus on wellbeing.

For example, this video highlights a Millennial Manager not caring about the reasoning for Paid Time Off, they simply need to know when you plan to take it.

Millennial Managers also typically prioritise transparent communication, regular feedback and a supportive work culture.

They often prefer a coaching approach to management, aiming to empower their teams and foster personal growth.

Additionally, a survey conducted by Deloitte highlights that Millennials value diversity and inclusion, seeking to create inclusive environments where all employees feel valued and respected – an increasingly important priority for those looking to secure Gen Z talent.  

Talking feelings

Compared to their counterparts, Millennial Managers often exhibit higher levels of comfort when discussing wellbeing topics such as mental health.

Partly, this enhanced emotional intelligence is due to the cultural shift towards greater openness about emotions and mental health issues in the workplace following the pandemic.

Millennials also grew up in an era where discussions about feelings were increasingly normalised, thanks to greater awareness and advocacy surrounding mental health.

As such, the topic of mental health in the workplaceis a lot less taboo to Millennials.

In fact, a study found that millennials were almost twice as likely as Baby Boomers to be comfortable (62% vs. 32%) discussing their mental health.

In contrast, older generations may have been raised in a culture that valued stoicism and professionalism, often suppressing emotions in the workplace.

Additionally, traditional corporate environments tended to prioritise task-focused communication over emotional expression, leading to a reluctance to address feelings or mental health issues openly.

However, of course, there are exceptions in every generation.

Where did the Millennial Manager come from?

The Millennial Manager archetype seems to reflect a generational shift, alongside an overall workplace culture overhaul.

From a cultural perspective, ever since the pandemic, we’ve seen a workplace shift towards prioritising wellbeing.

Areas which help promote a better work-life balance, such as flexible hours and working from home, gained increased notoriety following the pandemic.

We've also seen a workforce-wide distaste towards fluff benefits.

Gone are the days when pizza parties sufficed for rewarding an overworked and underappreciated workforce.

People expect meaningful benefits; while pay increases are welcomed, areas such as development, autonomy and flexibility are all highly regarded.

The second part of the equation is a generational shift.

As with every generation, values differ, meaning when a new generation becomes increasingly prominent in higher-level positions, an overall workplace shift tends to take place.

We're seeing Millennial Managers rejecting the managerial style and expectations of previous generations, in essence becoming the managers they wish they had – this links back to the added focus on wellbeing.

For example, whereas in the past, you'd be expected to take annual leave to attend an appointment, Millennial Managers instead wish to empower workers with more flexibility, entrusting them to complete the job while still having the freedom to serve personal responsibilities.

While not all millennial managers fit this stereotype, there is a generational shift in managerial methods, with younger generations more likely to adopt such approaches.

People-focused HR solutions

Click here

Are Millennial Managers a good thing?

Ultimately, yes.

Over the past couple of years, we’ve covered a wide array of employee trends which have resulted in fundamental workplace shifts.

Everything from quiet quitting and the four-day workweek to recruitment love bombing and the leadership crisis.

The resounding truth amongst all these trends is that workplace expectations have changed and will never return to what they once were.

People value flexibility, autonomy, development, wellbeing and culture above all else.

While pay, of course, plays a role in attracting and keeping people, with such a competitive employment market, it's these other traits which will fundamentally sway candidates regarding both recruitment and retention.

The good news is, as stated above, these are all traits embodied by the Millennial Manager.

However, an area which isn’t necessarily a negative but does require consideration is adapting previous leadership styles to embody this new approach.

Businesses will be brimming with excellent managers and leaders, but their methods and expectations won't fully align.

In these cases, upskilling is the aim.

Existing leaders may require additional training to fully encompass what the modern workforce expects from its managers.

From empowering direct reports with learning & development opportunities to looking after a fully remote team, there a plenty of skills which weren’t required to the same extent five years ago.

Additional reading: you can find the previous employee trend blogs we referenced here:

What truly motivates people?

Building on the above, employee motivation can be broken down into extrinsic (external) and intrinsic (internal) motivators.

According to research, there are two distinct forms of motivation inherent in every individual:

  1. Extrinsic motivation, linked to factors such as rewards, salary or other external incentives
  2. Intrinsic motivation, connected to personal needs and interests

Evidence indicates going the extra mile to cultivate intrinsic motivation among staff enhances the likelihood of retention and significantly elevates the quality of their work.

Various expressions of intrinsic motivation are linked to enjoyment, interest, engagement, effort, learning and satisfaction, all of which tap into individuals' inner resources.

As such, the focus Millennial Managers place on developing a workplace focused on autonomy, competence and relatedness all go a long way in helping foster a culture driven by intrinsic motivation.

Does the millennial manager undermine the business?

The portrayal of "millennial managers" sparked widespread discussion on managerial styles and generational differences in the workplace.

Initially praised for fostering a relaxed and supportive work environment, the portrayal has faced criticism for promoting unprofessionalism and undermining the organisational structure.

While some defended the approach as reflective of a more empathetic leadership style, others condemned it as counterproductive and potentially harmful.

Ultimately, the debate highlights the complexity of modern management styles and the need for balance between professionalism and personal connection.

While the debate regarding these viral videos has some valid concerns, the important distinction required is that what we see on social media is an exaggerated character, aimed to first and foremost entertain its viewers.

Of course, undermining the business and unprofessionalism shouldn’t be encouraged, but this criticism takes the video too literally, missing the intended point.

Is a Millennial Manager a “wolf in sheep’s clothing”

In these social media skits, while comments generally favour millennial managers for fostering a supportive work environment, reactions vary.

Some users criticise such managers as fake and manipulative, warning against their supposed lack of transparency and tendency to prioritise their image over honest communication.

Personal anecdotes shared across social platforms highlight the mixed experiences with this management style, with some praising it for promoting productivity and others cautioning against its potential drawbacks, such as unclear expectations, sudden shifts in behaviour and back-stabbing.

However, the overly-buddy-buddy manager who comes across as your best friend until things go south has been a management trope for many years, not exclusive to the Millennial Manager – this type of behaviour is a reflection of the person's character, rather than their generational management style.

Good leadership is good leadership

With this trend focusing on the Millennial generation, so has our article.

Although, be under no illusion as good leadership is simply good leadership, posing the question: is this even a new phenomenon?

While Millennials may be pioneering a wellbeing focus, it isn’t exclusive to them.

The areas prompted by Millennial Managers are traits which many have known for a long time make good managers, e.g. authentic leadership, genuinely caring about the person, emotional intelligence, supporting work-life balance, etc.

Theoretically, the Millennial Manager could be viewed as less of a generational change and more of a management style change, as nothing done during this trend is unique to an age group.

It's simply good leadership.

If there was one takeaway from this article which we urge you to consider, it’s that in 2024, genuinely caring for your people is perhaps the most important trait any manager or leader can have.

Yes, people love added flexibility and relish development opportunities, but working in an environment which respects and cares for them acts as the foundation for any truly meaningful workplace culture.

If you're looking for more insights into how people management is changing, look no further.

Our new Podcast with Joey Price, CEO of Jumpstart:HR and Stephanie Coward, MD of HCM at IRIS Software Group, explores how managers can adopt a more intimate and personalised approach to keep employees united as a single community, using data to understand what is and isn’t working.

Podcast: People management needs to change

Listen here