Why We Need To Be Okay With Millennials Managing Upwards


By: Sarah Marczynski

With 53.5 million Millennials in the workplace, chances are very high that you have come across one at work. You probably have some working in the office next to you.

A February 2016 article on The Next Web (TNW) focuses on how businesses should be accepting and adapting to millennial’s use of technology in the workplace and be looking for ways to incorporate their tech-savviness. The article has interesting conclusions on that front, but it leads to deeper thoughts about how millennials are and can be working with work colleagues from other generations who are either at their same management level or where the millennial is the boss.

managing upward
Designed using resources from Freepik

52% of millennials are looking for some kind of career progression and generally eager to take on new tasks and responsibilities and learn new skills that would make them more attractive to employers. Drew McManus’ recent survey about why arts managers leave jobs yielded 57% of responses from admins ages 25-34 and the number one reason for leaving was “[concern] about the lack of opportunities for advancement.”  As a millennial worker who fancies a director title one day, this is a topic that has always interested me and you can read some of the other articles about millennial leadership I’ve written if you too are interested.

If you, like me, find yourself a millennial working in close proximity to workers of other generations, some notes from the field:

  • You might just be the “adultier adult“.  I still look around at a meeting or through my inbox where someone wants a decision and I wonder who is supposed to make it. Oh, that would be me. I am the youngest member of my organization’s staff, but I am asked to make large and small decisions about our education and engagement programs each day. My choices mean something and there are actions that come from them that shape the organization.
  • Just because you are the youngest person in the room doesn’t mean you are not qualified. Millennials are some of the most educated workers in the field, through both formal education like university degrees and informal education like internships. You come to your job with a unique set of qualifications and expertise and on some subjects are the most qualified to give advice and opinions.
  • Just because you are the youngest person in the room doesn’t mean you are qualifiedWe were all given participation trophies and think we’re special and everyone should listen to us. While I can offer expert opinion on the social media platforms we should be using, my skills around investments and endowments are limited to being able to define them and knowing they are good. When these topics arise in meetings, I know I am among the least qualified to be offering advice, so my mouth is shut. I’m still paying attention though so one day I will be the endowment wizard.
  • When dealing with other generations, practice patience. Every generation has their own particular traits and quirks. Recognizing the different  communication styles, overarching priorities, vocabulary, etc. of generations before and after your own can offer insight into being a better co-worker and a better leader.

Other millennials out there, I’m curious what your field observations are. Leave a comment below or tweet me.

Photo of author
Sarah Marczynski
Sarah joined the Chattanooga Symphony & Opera in 2010 working with the Marketing and Development staffs and quickly became interested in community engagement and education. She holds a Master’s of Public Administration focusing in Nonprofit Arts Management from the University of Tennessee at Chattanooga where her capstone and other work under Dr. Christopher Horne examined attendance patterns in high-art cultural institutions and network relationships between local arts agencies and cultural partners. She also holds a Bachelor’s of Vocal Music Education from UTC, where she studied under Dr. Kevin Ford and Ron Ulen. Sarah has been active in the Chattanooga arts community, serving as the founding chair of the Chattanooga Young Artistic Network (CYAN), graduating from the Holmberg Arts Leadership Institute, and working with the Chattanooga Boys Choir, the Choral Arts Society, the Hunter Museum of American Art, the Chattanooga Bach Choir. Outside of the arts world, Sarah pretends to be an excellent cook (but she's broken 2 ovens), reads Jane Austen novels, and watches way too much House of Cards.
Author Archive

Leave a Comment