A client recently complained to me about some of his team being a little less grateful regarding their forthcoming Christmas party for which he is footing the bill.

He is paying for a traditional sit down meal with wine on each of the tables along with the usual Christmas crackers and party poppers. He has done this every year and has organised it again for this year. For many of his staff it is one of the work highlights of their year.

Some staff wanted something very different. They wanted it to be more informal, with a casual stand-up buffet served & available throughout the evening with the opportunity to make their drink choices at the bar. This group was made up entirely of millennials within his workforce.

They did not relish the restrictions on where they had to sit, what they had to eat and what they could drink; along with knowing that the speed with which they could finish and move on would be set by the slowest person on their table.

So there were two cohorts of staff each wanting something entirely different, although the outcome, which was a fully funded Christmas party, was the same.

As with the Christmas party, in the workplace, we know that millennials like to deliver the required output with more control over what they do, when they do it and how they do it.

To achieve results in the workplace, the best managers need to get the best out of both the “traditional sit down meal” and the “casual stand-up buffet” cohorts.

Managers are perhaps generally more comfortable with the “sit down meal” brigade. Hierarchical structures, job descriptions and company culture within which individuals understand “how things are done around here”. These all help managers to achieve results through this group.

Great managers already know that different individuals/groups need to be motivated to perform in different ways. So adapting how they manage millennials compared to other groups is simply great management.

Dovetailing the needs of the “sit down meal” brigade with the “casual stand up buffet” group, whilst maintaining focus upon company goals has its challenges. Though it isn’t about making wholesale changes to the way things are done. It is about TNT.

TNT is dynamite! TNT also stands for “tiny noticeable things”. It is the tiny noticeable things which line managers do with particular groups and/or individuals which raise their performance levels.

However, their desire needs to be tempered against the needs of the organisation. Early responsibility and challenge comes with risk. The risk to the organisation is that the outcome is not achieved to the right standard at the right time.

The risk for the millennial is early failure. Failure, is not a motivator!

This being the case we need to put in place the checks and balances which mitigate against that. This means looking at how we can best “drip feed” the increased responsibility and challenge through risk free strategies.

For great managers, this is simply effective delegation. It is about knowing how much responsibility to delegate and when; whilst at the same time retaining accountability.

As part of this process we need to build our millennials self-confidence , tenacity and sense of realism. Self-confidence includes the confidence to make decisions, the confidence to ask for help when needed and the confidence to take responsibility for things which don’t go according to plan.


Millennials are less forgiving of poor management. This includes being “over managed”. Basic management theory, identifies different management styles from the Authoritarian and Directive styles through to the Democratic, Participative and Coaching styles.

If millennials desire being given responsibility and challenge much sooner in their careers than their older counterparts we need to look towards more of the Democratic, Participative and Coaching styles of management.

Asking for help when needed and taking responsibility for things which don’t go according to plan are not typical millennial behaviours. Neither is tenacity. The expectation of success, the entitlement to their status and their impatience if results do not happen quickly are not great companions of tenacity.

Having a sense of realism is therefore a key driver of millennial success in the workplace.

This should start during the recruitment process. The best people to tell millennials “how it is” are other millennials. It is also useful to understand that not everything will be a success & not everything will happen as quickly as they would like. It is also useful to know that they can turn to others for support & that doing this at the right time is an indication of strength & sound judgement.

Two key support interventions which have the potential to be particularly effective in the development of millennials are Coaching & Mentoring. It is often the “sit down meal” brigade who are best placed to support the “casual stand up buffet” cohort.

Mentoring can be a long term formal relationship whereby the millennial can draw upon the experiences of their Mentor as required to guide them. Mentoring can be quite directive in nature. Most importantly it provides a safe environment in which to develop. Mentoring is described as helping the individual to discover their wisdom.

Author Malcolm Hewitt has worked within organisational development for over 20 years, and was appointed as an Industrial Fellow at the University of Surrey.

Malcolm has acted as a strategic partner and consultant for a wide range of well-known organisations in the Service, Leisure, Manufacturing and Construction sectors helping to plan training, resourcing and succession.

Coaching can be used to focus on the “here and now” to look for ways to improve immediate performance. Coaching is often seen as part of mentoring.

The exact model a company adopts to support the raw talent which millennials bring to the business will depend upon many variables including business size, task complexity, and the availability of suitable mentors/coaches.

The important point about integrating millennials is that they need that support and the organisation needs to provide it in ways which protect both the organisation & the next generation of achievers.

When that is managed rather than left to chance the benefit might just be a bigger budget for the next Christmas party.