So how do you keep millennials happy if they're looking for advancement but not a slow march into middle-management? Many technology companies have adapted to this reality by shifting their definition of workplace success. Alphabet (formerly Google) and Oracle, for example, have designed career tracks that don't lead to manager positions, said Scott DeRue, University of Michigan Ross School of Business associate dean who teaches leadership development.
"Individual career paths run parallel to management paths at these tech companies. The key is, you can be just as successful in either path." It's not only that having everyone shoot for the C-suite is unrealistic, said DeRue, it's that the C-suite may not even jibe with their idea of an enriching lifestyle.
Millennials who want to get ahead but balk at a manager title may simply be reacting to bad branding. "There was a period in the late 1990s where we saw a shift. No one wanted to be in Office
Space, but everyone wants to lead in their own way," said DeRue.
Stew Friedman, director of the Wharton School's Work/Life Integration Project, agrees that management has gotten a bad rep. "Millennials saw their parents devote their lives to those kinds of total-immersion manager jobs, only to be ejected in the financial crisis," said Friedman, who speculates that millennials want jobs that have more impact, along with fulfilling personal lives. "The perception of managerial life is that it takes you further away from work that really matters."
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