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Three Tips for Managing Millennial Civil Engineers

By Bob Filipczak

If you are looking for one of those articles that moans and complains about how hard it is to work with Millennials, you came to the wrong place. Honestly, there are so many of those articles seemingly arriving daily, why bother? Instead let’s talk about managing Millennials in a way that plays to their strengths.

First off, it’s important to understand that your co-workers are civil engineers first and Millennials second. The core characteristics of civil engineers are much more important than any Millennial traits you observe.

That said, the core characteristics of Millennials are: Special, Sheltered, Confident, Team-Oriented, Conventional, Pressured, Achieving. Let’s focus on a couple of those.


Of all the generations currently in the workforce, Millennials do teamwork better than anyone. They eat, sleep, and breathe teamwork. If you want to get the best from them, organize your work into team tasks as much as possible. As Tara McBride, a civil engineer at MnDOT’s Metro District puts it, “When we are talking about trying to get a project done at the end of the day, we don’t necessarily care whose name is on it. It’s about trying to create the best product or be as successful as possible.” Millennials sense of teamwork and self-sacrifice is as strong as Brokaw’s Great Generation.


A lot of jokes are made about the “everyone gets a trophy” generation, but the way Millennials were raised also gave them a strong sense of generational destiny. They strongly believe in their own ability to fix things (probably even stronger among civil engineers). Consequently, if you make an effort to communicate how they are “making a difference” at work, you will tap into a strong vein of what motivates them. McBride, who has worked volunteering on projects in Peru and Honduras, says that making a difference in your job is “spot on.”


Because they have had much of their life scheduled for them, Millennials feel pressured. But they also are accustomed to a level of structure the previous two generations (Generation X and Baby Boomers) never saw. So if your work isn’t structured and well-documented, Millennial workers can feel a bit lost. Ryan Wilson, an engineer working on light rail for MnDOT, manages Millennials and is right on the cusp of being a Millennial himself. About structure he says, “if they crave it and you don’t provide that, that’s a recipe for trouble.”

Both McBride and Wilson agree on one central tenant of generational management. First, you need to be a good manager. Once you have those skills in place, you can use these generational tips to help you adjust to people issues as they arise. It’s never a good idea to try to generationally manage people as a starting point.