What To Expect When Your Boss Is A Millennial

People born in the 1980s and 1990s — also dubbed Generation Y— are quickly rising the corporate ladder. Why the new boss is not quite the same as the old boss.

Natalia Lef, 29, is a senior manager in Buenos Aires
Kimberly-Clark Argentina
Gabriela Samela

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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Why Chinese Cities Waste Millions On Vanity Building Projects

The so-called "White Elephants," or massive building projects that go unused, keep going up across China as local officials mix vanity and a misdirected attempt to attract business and tourists. A perfect example the 58-meter, $230 million statue of Guan Yu, a beloved military figure from the Third Century, that nobody seems interested in visiting.

Statue of Guan Yu in Jingzhou Park, China

Chen Zhe

BEIJING — The Chinese Ministry of Housing and Urban-Rural Development recently ordered the relocation of a giant statue in Jingzhou, in the central province of Hubei. The 58-meter, 1,200-ton statue depicts Guan Yu, a widely worshipped military figure from the Eastern Han Dynasty in the Third century A.D.

The government said it ordered the removal because the towering presence "ruins the character and culture of Jingzhou as a historic city," and is "vain and wasteful." The relocation project wound up costing the taxpayers approximately ¥300 million ($46 million).

Huge monuments as "intellectual property" for a city

In recent years local authorities in China have often raced to create what is euphemistically dubbed IP (intellectual property), in the form of a signature building in their city. But by now, we have often seen negative consequences of such projects, which evolved from luxurious government offices to skyscrapers for businesses and residences. And now, it is the construction of cultural landmarks. Some of these "white elephant" projects, even if they reach the scale of the Guan Yu statue, or do not necessarily violate any regulations, are a real problem for society.

It doesn't take much to be able to differentiate between a project constructed to score political points and a project destined for the people's benefit. You can see right away when construction projects neglect the physical conditions of their location. The over the top government buildings, which for numerous years mushroomed in many corners of China, even in the poorest regional cities, are the most obvious examples.

Homebuyers looking at models of apartment buildings in Shanghai, China — Photo: Imaginechina/ZUMA

Guan Yu transformed into White Elephant

A project truly catering to people's benefit would address their most urgent needs and would be systematically conceived of and designed to play a practical role. Unfortunately, due to a dearth of true creativity, too many cities' expression of their rich cultural heritage is reduced to just building peculiar cultural landmarks. The statue of Guan Yu in Jingzhou is a perfect example.

Long ago Jinzhou was a strategic hub linking the North and the South of China. But its development has lagged behind coastal cities since the launch of economic reform a generation ago.

This is why the city's policymakers came up with the idea of using the place's most popular and glorified personality, Guan Yu (who some refer to as Guan Gong). He is portrayed in the 14th-century Chinese classic "The Romance of the Three Kingdoms" as a righteous and loyal warrior. With the aim of luring tourists, the city leaders decided to use him to create the city's core attraction, their own IP.

Opened in June 2016, the park hosting the statue comprises a surface of 228 acres. In total it cost ¥1.5 billion ($232 million) to build; the statue alone was ¥173 million ($27 million). Alas, since the park opened its doors more than four years ago, the revenue to date is a mere ¥13 million ($2 million). This was definitely not a cost-effective investment and obviously functions neither as a city icon nor a cultural tourism brand as the city authorities had hoped.

China's blind pursuit of skyscrapers

Some may point out the many landmarks hyped on social media precisely because they are peculiar, big or even ugly. However, this kind of attention will not last and is definitely not a responsible or sustainable concept. There is surely no lack of local politicians who will contend for attention by coming up with huge, strange constructions. For those who can't find a representative figure, why not build a 40-meter tall potato in Dingxi, Gansu Province, a 50-meter peony in Luoyang, Shanxi Province, and maybe a 60-meter green onion in Zhangqiu, Shandong Province?

It is to stop this blind pursuit of skyscrapers and useless buildings that, early this month, the Ministry of Housing and Urban-Rural Development issued a new regulation to avoid local authorities' deviation from people's real necessities, ridiculous wasted costs and over-consumption of energy.

I hope those responsible for the creation of a city's attractiveness will not simply go for visual impact, but instead create something that inspires people's intelligence, sustains admiration and keeps them coming back for more.

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