Generation Y Managing Baby Boomers: In Good Company?
The experienced professional, 51 years of age, gets a brand new
boss... who happens to be a 26-year old "rising star." Is this
scenario in the new hit movie, In Good Company, an unlikely story?
Or a growing phenomenon? Answer: There is a growing incidence of
employees reporting to younger supervisors/managers which dovetails
with the much larger shift away from traditional sources of
authority in the workplace: Age, experience, rank, and rules are
diminishing. Seniority is no longer king. So yes. In the real
world, 26-year old Carter Duryea (played by Topher Grace) could
very easily become 51-year old Dan Foreman's (played by Dennis
Advice to the boomer employee reporting to the Gen-Y boss:
- Don't be insulted. Let go of your ego.
- Accept your new boss.
- Assess your new boss, but don't test. As with any boss, determine if this boss can help you contribute, succeed, and be rewarded. If not, you should plan your exit, regardless of your boss's age.
- If you must talk about "it," talk about it once. Then drop it. The last thing your new boss wants to hear all the time is how she reminds you of your niece.
- Remember, maybe they hired the young upstart to try some new things. Don't be the one digging in your heels and refusing to go along.
- Be the wise sage. If you think your boss lacks experience, context and wisdom, then be the one to offer some. But offer your advice in private.
- Be great at managing yourself. Get lots of work done very well very fast one day after another. Solve problems instead of creating them.
Advice to the Gen Y manager:
- Remember that you are young and inexperienced. Don't be insulted if some of your direct reports are aware of that too. Prove yourself without showing off.
- Get to know each person on your team. Learn what you have to learn from each person. Figure out where each person on the team is coming from and where each one is going.
- Build an ongoing dialogue with each team member. Talk to every person one on one at least once a week, and talk about the work. Gradually discover what you need to talk about (and how you need to talk) with each team member, and develop a good system for keeping notes in a running log.
- Don't shoot down ideas. Instead, when presented with new ideas, ask for a written proposal with pros and cons, a schedule of goals and deadlines, resource needs, etc..
- Find at least one wise sage on your team, someone who can tell you the inside scoop, where the resources are, pitfalls, shortcuts, and context.
- Get results. If your team succeeds, you will gain power and status and rewards for yourself and your team. Then they'll love you, no matter how young you are.
This article is brought to you by RainmakerThinking, IncÂ®â€”a firm dedicated to studying the working lives of young people. Visit them online at www.rainmakerthinking.com.