Article | 4 min read

Those needy Millennials. Now they want hugs, too?

By Page Grossman

Last updated June 12, 2017

Millennial here. Hi. Let’s talk about how my generation is taking over the workplace and demanding a different type of leadership. But instead of focusing on how we’re messing up your management plan, I want to talk about how the changes we’re asking for will benefit everyone. Even you. Oh, and just you wait, I’ll get my comeuppance, don’t worry. When I get to top management, I’ll be managing employees born in 2010. Those people will probably live and work solely in the virtual world and interact with AI more than humans, so, you know—changes are good, right?

What do Millennials mean to you?

Psychologists and those that study behavioral things, call us needy Millennials self-centered, lazy, and so many other negative characteristics. But as we get older, the reasons why we’re the way we are and the fact that we’re really not so bad are becoming more clear. I promise, Boomers, we’re not going to ruin the world.

New studies show that Millennials (now the largest generation) are bucking tradition with our spending habits. We’re not buying homes, we’re not buying cars, and we’re not getting married. (We are buying coffee. And lots of it.) We predominately focus on health, life longevity, and experiences.

So how does our self-centered neediness translate into what we seek from employers? Millennial employees want to work with a company whose values they respect, with a boss who nurtures their talent like a mentor, and affords them personal and career growth opportunities. The fact that we want all of this on top of flexible scheduling, family leave, and unlimited vacation days is for another discussion.

Hugs in the workplace

Leaders in charge of Millennial droves now find themselves having to change their leadership style. Change isn’t easy, but I’ve got one super easy way you can start right now—hugs. Yep, I said it.

Change isn’t easy, but I’ve got one super easy way you can start right now—hugs. Yep, I said it. Hugs in the workplace.

Why hugs? Research has found that hugs and happiness are correlated. A hug prompts our bodies to release oxytocin, a happy chemical that tells our amygdala to chill. (Jonathan Munn cheekily refers to the amygdala as “the lizard brain.”) A simple hug reduces the reactivity of your amygdala, the HQ of fear, anxiety, and aggression.

Hugs make people happy. So what? Happy employees are more loyal and more likely to work hard for your company. Show your employees that you care about them and you’re willing to fight alongside them for the good of the company and you’ll get those fickle, changeable Millennials to pour their heart and soul into your company—and for longer than a year.

Emotional leadership works for all of us

Think of hugs as just one tool in your arsenal for building a relationship with Millennial employees and implementing emotional leadership. Haven’t heard of it?

Think of hugs as just one tool in your arsenal for building a relationship with Millennial employees and implementing emotional leadership.

According to the World Economic Forum, emotional intelligence will be one of the top 10 most desired skills in 2020. I think this study is already a few years behind. Millennials are showing their emotional intelligence in the workplace through passion for their work, professional growth, and workplace relationships. Now it’s time for our managers to catch-up and to learn how to support us through emotional leadership.

Emotional leadership can take many forms, and one of those forms is through a broader acceptance of consensual, platonic physical touch in the workplace. Implementing more touch in the workplace isn’t for every leader and isn’t for every employee, so giving and requesting feedback is very important here.

It’s more than how hard you hug

If hugging an employee isn’t your thing, there are other ways to access your emotional leadership. “Leading with Love: Future of Emotional Leadership,” SXSW panelist and co-founder of Omelet Brands Ryan Fey says, “Appreciate, engage, and thank the people who work for you.” Yeah,

Taking the time to talk to your employees about things other than work and their performance builds a relationship that’s so much stronger than the traditional boss-employee relationship. These types of real conversations build empathy which makes emotional connection easier.

Being a great emotional leader means recognizing that each person is unique with differing passions and motivators. Finding those individual motivators creates genuine connection and humanizes your employees—that’s emotional leadership.

“Take a few minutes out of every day to talk to someone to find out what makes them tick,” said Kristi VandenBosch, Chief Digital Officer at MXM.

Hugs, social conversation, and empathy are all aspects of emotional leadership and creating deeper connections with Millennial employees. (I bet it works with more than a few Gen Xers and Baby Boomers, too!) Doesn’t sound so bad,

And seriously, studies say that we touch our phone 85 times a day. Let’s put the phones down, and hug more. It’s for the good of the world and the happiness of the Millennials. Both worthy causes.