We hear more complaints from Millennials about managing Boomers than any other demographic issue. You’d think, with the economy still staggering and showing only rare flashes of recovery, people with jobs would be cheerful — glad to manage anyone assigned to them and vice versa. Not so. Both groups are loud in criticism of each other. What’s most interesting is what isn’t said. The elephant in the room is that managing people is no longer a widely held goal.
Millennials no longer complain about Boomer computer and social media skills or lack thereof. Boomers no longer complain about Millennials’ work ethics. The hot new complaint is how each group engages. Millennial managers want everyone to get on with the job. They don’t want opinions, ideas or participation. They want results as quickly and quietly as possible. Boomers are still hung up on attitude and how people feel. Here’s the paradox. Many Millennials share horribly inappropriate attitudes, pictures, and opinions on the social media but won’t voice an opinion in the office, even when harassed to do so.
What we hear from top management is that younger workers care nothing about moving up the management hierarchy. They don’t want to be CEO of the company — ever. Think about this: If it’s true then compensating managers disproportionately — a religion in this country — is buying companies nothing! While the Boomers slouch toward the exit there are few people who want to replace them. Millennials are looking for a start-up where — they believe — such problems won’t exist. Of all the fantasies of the young this is the most fantastic.
Do I have a magic pill that will make managing people of any age attractive? No. I know companies have to manage people. People rarely, if ever, manage themselves. Or can they be made to? That’s the intriguing thing about Millennials. Will they be the first generation to work on an assignment only basis? The first people who won’t need structure, support, or leadership. If each person is his or her own leader life would surely be simpler. Boomers are incapable of imagining such a workplace, even if they’ve worked from home for years. They feel a tethered to a structure with knowable outlines. Millennials may never have experienced anything but isolated independence until they are managed by Boomers.
The point: Management isn’t a universal desire. The next CEO is not in an outpost learning the business so he or she can take over. All those capable women who aren’t on the fast track to the CEO’s job are telling corporations something important: Being CEO as currently defined isn’t worth the effort! Shouldn’t strategic planners be thinking about ta different future?