4 Ways To Manage Millennials In The Military

Leadership
Dod Photo

Lazy. Entitled. Snowflakes. Those are perhaps three of the most common words associated with the millennial generation. Classified as those who reached adulthood in the early 21st century, this age group is hated by the media and employers alike. TIME Magazine even referred to it as the “me, me, me” generation.


So what happens when they join the military? Leadership isn’t quite sure what to do with them.

Task & Purpose spoke with Mike LaFeve, a retired Air Force colonel who served 22 years, part of it in Special Operations with multiple combat deployments to Afghanistan and Iraq. He spent three years at the end of his career developing millennial service members into officers and had some tips for anyone charged with leading the so-called unmanageable generation.

1. Alter your perception.

“The hardest part is getting past that perception gap,” LaFeve says.

One of the greatest issues faced by leaders who work with millennials is often more of a perception problem than anything else. There is an ongoing narrative in the United States about millennials refusing to work or pay their dues, or quitting when they are unhappy. Though leaders may see some truth to this in specific cases, it happens in every generation. The odds are that most millennials, especially the ones that join the military, do not fit the stereotype of being lazy and entitled.

“The ones that join the military, their motivations are the same as mine [were]. They’re kind of universal, tried-and-true,” he says.

2. Separate millennials from the environment in which they were raised.

“The biggest mistake that could be made is treating [millennials] differently because of the cultural impression of them,” LaFeve recommends. “They’re no different than us. Their environment was different than ours.”

That environment, LaFeve says, shaped millennials in different ways, but the motivation to join the military remains a constant. He says that it’s silly for the touch-tone-phone generation to hate millennials because they use cell phones. That’s an environmental change.

Millennials should not be blamed or punished for the society in which they were raised, but evaluated for the individual skills they bring to the table.

3. Judge them on merit.

Millennials grew up in the “everyone-gets-a-trophy” era, but LaFeve says that this actually makes them more competitive, and it’s something leadership can use to motivate them to be better, stronger, and more efficient.

“When you offer them an opportunity to be in an environment where everyone is judged on merit and performance, it’s something they haven’t seen,” he says. “They are really seeking that environment. They want to find ways that they can separate themselves from their peers.”

4. See their good qualities.

“[One] of their most positive aspects is that their level of bias — interracial, sexual — is profoundly, exponentially lower than the biases I grew up with,” LaFeve says. “They’re incredibly accepting of diversity.”

While millennials do seek to discern themselves from their contemporaries, they are not competitive in a biased or judgmental way. It’s largely about self-improvement.

LaFeve also adds that millennials are technologically savvy, innovative, and creative. And those characteristics are ones that they will employ throughout their careers, in the military or otherwise, with the right leadership.

Every once in a while, we run across a photo in The Times-Picayune archives that's so striking that it begs a simple question: "What in the name of Momus Alexander Morgus is going on in this New Orleans photograph?" When we do, we've decided, we're going to share it — and to attempt to answer that question.

Read More Show Less
Members of the Syrian Democratic Forces control the monitor of their drone at their advanced position, during the fighting with Islamic State's fighters in Nazlat Shahada, a district of Raqqa. (Reuters/Zohra Bensemra)

MUSCAT (Reuters) - The United States should keep arming and aiding the Kurdish-led Syrian Democratic Forces (SDF) following the planned U.S. withdrawal from Syria, provided the group keeps up the pressure on Islamic State, a senior U.S. general told Reuters on Friday.

Read More Show Less

President Donald Trump claims the $6.1 billion from the Defense Department's budget that he will now spend on his border wall was not going to be used for anything "important."

Trump announced on Friday that he was declaring a national emergency, allowing him to tap into military funding to help pay for barriers along the U.S.-Mexico border.

Read More Show Less

Long before Tony Stark took a load of shrapnel to the chest in a distant war zone, science fiction legend Robert Heinlein gave America the most visceral description of powered armor for the warfighter of the future. Forget the spines of extra-lethal weaponry, the heads-up display, and even the augmented strength of an Iron Man suit — the real genius, Heinlein wrote in Starship Troopers, "is that you don't have to control the suit; you just wear it, like your clothes, like skin."

"Any sort of ship you have to learn to pilot; it takes a long time, a new full set of reflexes, a different and artificial way of thinking," explains Johnny Rico. "Spaceships are for acrobats who are also mathematicians. But a suit, you just wear."

First introduced in 2013, U.S. Special Operations Command's Tactical Assault Light Operator Suit (TALOS) purported to offer this capability as America's first stab at militarized powered armor. And while SOCOM initially promised a veritable Iron Man-style tactical armor by 2018, a Navy spokesman told Task & Purpose the much-hyped exoskeleton will likely never get off the launch pad.

"The prototype itself is not currently suitable for operation in a close combat environment," SOCOM spokesman Navy Lt. Phillip Chitty told Task & Purpose, adding that JATF-TALOS has no plans for an external demonstration this year. "There is still no intent to field the TALOS Mk 5 combat suit prototype."

Read More Show Less

D-Day veteran James McCue died a hero. About 500 strangers made sure of it.

"It's beautiful," Army Sgt. Pete Rooney said of the crowd that gathered in the cold and stood on the snow Thursday during McCue's burial. "I wish it happened for every veteran's funeral."

Read More Show Less