BUENOS AIRES — The generation that came of age at the turn of the century is now revolutionizing the workplace. By 2020, millennials, as they're known, will represent more than a third (35%) of the total workforce. Not only that, but they're also taking on more and more leadership roles as managers and directors.
Millennials are known for being agile and active. They seek challenges and tend to be project-oriented. But they're also anxious and care little for disappointment. So what are they like as bosses? How does their managerial style differ with others generations at work?
"They have a very different management style compared to the way organizations were previously run," says Álvaro Capobianco, head of Raet Latinoamérica, a human resources software maker. "They have another way of thinking about work relationships, different motives. [Millennial managers] want to lead their teams on the basis of trust, honest communications and empathy."
Sometimes, though, the approach can backfire, Capobianco argues. "Subordinates start thinking everything is allowed. That's when they have to resort to establishing limits." One of Capobianco's 30-something colleagues, Florencia Pasqualetti, agrees, but admits that it's easier said than done, especially when it means telling older workers what to do. As head of Raet's customer service sector. Pasqualetti leads a team of five employees. "It's difficult to offer constructive criticism or advice to someone who's older, more experienced," she says.
Another young business manager, Carlos Arguindegui, says he went into "total panic" when he took over as head of strategic accounts for Oracle in Argentina. Like Pasqualetti, the 36-year-old manager has subordinates who in some cases are older. "One of the sellers was my father's age," he recalls. "I couldn't sleep thinking about what to do, or what I could contribute."
Then, following his instincts and drawing on his experiences playing rugby, Arguindegui decided to meet with each of his team members independently — to understand them better and figure out what motivates them. "After the meetings we were able to establish the rules of the game and team norms," he says. Arguindegui has since been promoted to vice-president of applications development for all of Oracle's Latin America offices.
Marina Córdoba, 35, has also struggled with the challenge of playing "boss" to older colleagues. "They were expecting me to give clear directives rather than raise questions for open discussion," Córdoba, the culture and communications head at the credit card company Tarjeta Naranja, says of her 25-person team. She also says that she's quick to acknowledge when subordinates have skills she herself doesn't. "I'm really observant," Córdoba says. "I try to see what others are doing, and then approach them and ask advice."
Sharing is a generational trait.
Arguindegui believes that "being connected and sharing things" is a generational trait. "I don't understand people who think they're the boss. I think if you receive, you have to give back much more, and then what comes backs, comes back multiplied," he says.
Not surprisingly, millennials are also good at adopting new technological trends — and quickly. At the same time, members of Generation Y, as they're also known, would do well to slow things down sometimes, according to Arguindegui. "It's good to make things happen faster, but some things need their time," he says.
Natalia Lef, head of marketing with Kimberly-Clark Argentina, agrees. The 29-year-old says others in her generation are too quick to get frustrated when things don't happen right away. "I think patience is important, it helps you know when it's the right moment to grow," she says.
But others say that the tendency among millennials to be impatient — particularly when it comes learning new skills and taking on new challenges — promotes personal growth. "I never did the same thing for more than a year," Córdoba says of her time at Tarjeta Naranja, where nearly 80% of employees are Generation Y. "People in this generation are known not to stay in the same place for more than five years. I entered here 13 years ago with the idea of gaining experience in the area I was studying. But the firm presented me with challenges and gave me new positions all the time," she says.
Millennials aren't interested in spending their whole lives tied to a single job, or even a single career. But for Angie Gnecco, 30 — a cosmetics marketer with Maybelline and Garnier who likes to balance work with music, travel and other pursuits — it speaks to the fact that millennials have a different set of priorities.
"In their search for happiness and passion millennials often feel lost," she says. "But once they find their passion, they are absolutely responsible. We know we spend nine hours of our daily lives at work, so it really must be fulfilling."
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