Are Millennials Good Team Players?

Posted by Kristin Arnold on February 16, 2016

I was having a robust discussion with a meetings industry leader about the Millennial generation – and he agreed that we are making way too big of a deal focusing on the alleged differences between the generations. At one point in the conversation, we started talking about their propensity toward teamwork.

Yes, the Millennials have been working in teams since they were in elementary school.  Title IX has opened the doors to women participating in team sports.  And, if given a choice, most Millenials prefer working in groups. Just check out these statistics about hiring and working with millennials.




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Sure they want to be collaborators and team players, but does that make them GOOD team players?

Maybe yes, and maybe no. I think there is a high probability that your Millennial teammate is a good team player – but there’s no guarantee that they collaborate well.  Even in teams that are dominated with Millennials, typical group dynamics occur:

  • One person will dominate a discussion and others will accommodate
  • Conflict will arise and some will just avoid dealing with it
  • The team has different understandings of the goal and definition of success
  • A teammate won’t pull their weight (otherwise known as a freeloader)
  • One person goes rogue and doesn’t communicate what has transpired
  • And the list goes on..

When these events do occur, they still have to work through it.

In my casual observation, Millennials are much more willing to speak up and call the foul, tell it like it is (or at least how they see the world).  I like this quality, but it still doesn’t mean they have the skills to work through rough patches.

All of us are a product of the collective teams we have been on.  We replicate that which we know.  If you have been on an extraordinary team, then chances are, you’ll take those good practices to the next team, and the next.  You’ll build on what works and what doesn’t.

If you have only been exposed to poor team dynamics, then guess what?  You’ll perpetuate poor team behaviors – simply because you don’t know any better.

My suggestion for team leaders and business managers: Do not assume your outspoken Millennials know how to be good team players.  Have discussions about what their past experiences on teams have been like, what roles they took on, and how they overcame challenges.  Take the time to train and model for them the high performing team behaviors you expect on your teams.

Kristin Arnold is a professional meeting facilitator and international speaker who is passionate about helping leaders and their teams think things through, make better decisions and achieve sustainable results. The Extraordinary Team’s approach to building high performance teams combines consulting, coaching, training and process facilitation within the context of working real issues.

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