TIME Careers & Workplace

5 Ways to Deal With a Millennial Boss Driving You Nuts

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Don't despair, here's how to deal

Think millennials are self-absorbed and entitled? Well, you have a lot of company, according to one recent survey which found that 71% of Americans think the younger generation is selfish, but here’s the thing: If you’re not working for one already, you probably will be soon.

Capital One’s new Spark Business Barometer survey finds that millennial small-business owners — those under the age of 34 — are doing better than their older counterparts. More than 60% reported higher sales in the past six months, compared with around 40% of businesses overall. They’re more optimistic, too; about three-quarters consider business conditions to be good or excellent, compared with roughly half of small-business owners overall.

This means millennials are the ones doing the hiring: 45% plan to hire in the next six months, compared with 30% of small-business owners overall. Since more than half the jobs in the country are at small businesses, this makes it likelier than not that today’s job seekers will end up working under someone in the Generation Y age bracket.

“We are seeing the same trend — that Gen Y are increasingly in management and ownership roles,” says Jason Dorsey, chief strategy officer at the Center for Generational Kinetics. “This is changing the dynamic within the workplace.”

We asked Dorsey, along with some executives who work with Generation Y (and, in some cases, are in that age bracket themselves) for tips on what workers should expect and how to succeed if they’re working for someone who might not even be old enough to remember life before the Internet.

Speak their language. “Determine how your millennial boss prefers to communicate,” Dorsey says. For instance, maybe they hardly ever check voicemail, but they might be quick to respond via online chat or text message.

Be prepared to hustle. “The day-to-day work at a Generation Y–led business is very intense and fast,” says Arvind Jay Dixit, CEO and founder of social-media platform Bubblews. Be flexible — you might be expected to jump into a variety of roles and do a wide variety of tasks, Dixit says. It might sound daunting, but it can pay real dividends for your career. “This keeps workers on their toes and motivated because they feel they have power to be able to influence decisions and strategy across the board,” he says.

Sharpen your social (media) skills. “Millennials expect to build a brand on various social platforms and be ‘liked’ in volume,” says Michelle Dennedy, vice president and chief privacy officer at McAfee Inc. Since before they were teenagers, millennials have been expressing themselves online and are used to a constant flow of information and communication, she says.

Don’t try to be their BFF. “What we see is that employees struggle more in a job as they become friends with a millennial boss outside of work,” Dorsey says. “Keeping it professional is the way to keep the job.”

Keep your tech skills up to snuff. “Millennial small-business owners tend to be very technologically savvy and open to digital tools and innovation that will help their business succeed,” says Keri Gohman, head of small-business banking at Capital One.

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