Millennials in the workplace: Understanding their quest for close relationships with managers and colleagues

Rigid corporate cultures do not inspire anybody to think creatively and come up with novel solutions to everyday problems. Millennials get far more accomplished when formalities and hierarchies are stripped away. The new, modern leader has to be approachable and expect to be treated the same as every other individual in the organization, this is an essential element to workplace relationship formation. This applies to two directional feedback. Millennials are not afraid to share their ideas or challenge their leaders. This does not necessarily come from a disdain of authority but from a notion that the best immediate and longer-term outcomes for the company will come from incorporating and synthesizing everybody’s point of view.

  •     The millennials truly believe that by working cross-functionally and with diverse teams the best business results will follow. Reward the wrong behaviors and companies face the potential of ostracizing their Millennial workers. Increasing workplace relationships and social interactions can help maintain both psychological and physical well-being (Baumeister & Leary, 1995).

When individuals lack social interactions, they often try to overcome their loneliness and satisfy their need to belong by using self-talk (Jonason, Webster, & Lindsey, 2008). Self-talk leadership strategies are the manifestation of self-regulation in the workplace. Intrinsically motivated employees who experience workplace ostracism are more likely to maintain their self-regulation and engage in these self-leadership strategies than peers who are not intrinsically motivated.

  •     Recent studies have shown that the leadership of people is not evolving fast enough to engage the millennial employees (Espinoza et al., 2010).

This includes coaching the leaders who are in charge of nurturing the millennial talent. This new wave of talent moving up the corporate ladder is in fact well positioned to deal with increasingly complex professional challenges. Reductive stereotyping of this group just leads to poor decision-making and a missed opportunity to achieve a long-term competitive advantage. If there is continued neglect of modern leadership styles by managers, this will most certainly affect the new millennial workers and their workplace relationships. Society cannot afford to lose the creativity and inputs from this generation as a result of sub-optimal managerial climates.

  •     Intelligent and progressive managers are upskilling to meet the demanding needs of their Millennial workforce (Thomas & Velthouse,1990) and creating an environment that fosters creativity and constant development opportunities.

This myriad of electronic communication technology is hastening the development of intimacy and informal workplace relationships such as friendship (Pescosolido and Rubin, 2000). This cohort are digital natives having grown up on the internet, social networks and advanced computing whilst at high school. In a professional environment they do not just want to use social media and connect with colleagues across digital platforms but use technology to excel. This generation does not agree that social media is energy draining or bad for productivity, instead they want to fully embrace technology to build relationships. This frequent social media usage is also key for the cross-pollination of friendships and relationships both inside and outside of the workplace. The level to which social networking contributes to building friendships may depend on organizational support. Some businesses ban all social media use in the workplace and block access to social networks.

  •     Creating ties on social media platforms can also bridge generational gaps. At a time when two out of five people work with colleagues spanning all four generations, social networks offer a way to break down generational barriers and make others seem more approachable.

The Millennials continue to take initiative and stimulate innovation in their workplaces (Block, 1987). They crave close connections and relationships with their coworkers and management, and the most successful businesses of the future will understand not only how to embrace this but more importantly how to foster a tolerant culture. The consequences of not aligning the managerial climate and engaging emerging talent will be higher turnover, lost creativity and innovation and poor customer experience (Schiemann, 2009).

Article adapted from Harvard University Paper for “The Psychology of Close Relationships”. Summer 2019.

 

 

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