Toward this end, I recently posted a piece on millennial management that featured what I felt was useful dialogue from Twitter. It discussed the importance to millennials of purpose and passion, and understanding “why” something was being done, not just “what” it was. Among the social media responses to the article were comments on LinkedIn from a reader named Lee Bickford. “So true,” she noted, and then followed with three paragraphs that were so thoughtful and insightful I felt they were worth including here.
“As the world grows more global, people become more connected," she wrote, "but they also ache for a sense of unique contribution. This is what motivates individuals to greatness, and I don’t believe it’s specific to millennials. We all want to know we have created some sort of legacy with our lives.
“One difference in this time (compared to previous decades) is that in many ways we have more permission to voice our ideas and views, and advocate for ourselves, rather than to silently comply with whatever directives are handed down from a vertical management structure.
“I’ve heard of the challenges of managing or leading millennials, and in team projects I’ve sometimes struggled while trying to create cohesion. Yet it seems these more enlightened approaches are in large part responsible for allowing some of the most creative ideas an opportunity to, at the very least, be heard and considered on their potential merits.”
From a management perspective, what I believe is especially valuable is the notion of millennials having “more permission to voice our ideas and views, and advocate for ourselves, rather than to silently comply with whatever directives are handed down.”
To me this is the crux of the matter, the workplace epicenter where generations collide, where the immovable force meets the immovable object. When traditional command-and-control management encounters refusals to comply with basic directives, dollars to doughnuts conflict will soon follow.
So what are the implications for management? For management that normally wants (and as a longtime manager I can attest to this) less drama and more productivity?
One thing I can say with certainty is that for managers this type of cultural conflict places a premium on “softer” communication skills.
On listening, on taking the time to understand where and why conflicts occur.
On accepting the fact that people are different, and that generations can have very different expectations and communication styles.
On not being threatened by someone who doesn’t unthinkingly comply with directives from above. And who can engage in thoughtful, level-headed dialogue when the occasion calls for it.
Make no mistake, I’m not advocating insubordination or chaos. At the end of the day management needs control — and productivity. It’s a results-oriented business. As it should be.
I often say that effective management is 49% understanding business and 51% understanding people. This is part of that 51%.
This article first appeared at Forbes.com.
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Victor is author of The Type B Manager: Leading Successfully in a Type A World.
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