Training Industry Quarterly - Summer 2013 - (Page 13)
PEOPLE @ WORK | CLAIRE RAINES
A GENERATIONAL MIX
YOUNGER BOSS, OLDER WORKER
“I grew up with TV dinners, [Eric] Clapton on the eight-track
and Perry Mason,” says Robert, 57. He runs marathons, reads the
manual, and watches reruns of “Law and Order.” Robert believes
he’s earned the right to an executive salary and the corner office.
Their communication will be stronger if they follow the Titanium
Rule: Do unto others, keeping their preferences in mind. Here
are some ways Robert can follow the Titanium Rule and work
effectively with his younger boss:
Jeanie, 22, says she can’t remember a time when she couldn’t text
as fast as she can talk. “I concentrate best,” she says, “when I’m
watching TV, listening to my iPod, and answering an IM.” She
believes in instant gratification, rewards and life after work.
• Focus less on relationship and more on results. Avoid
talking about your years of experience; instead, keep track
of your accomplishments and keep Jeanie up to date on them.
• Respect Jeanie’s expertise. Be open to new ideas.
• Refrain from behaviors that drive younger generations crazy.
Avoid comparing Jeanie to your daughter. Don’t act like a
know-it-all. Nip cynicism and sarcasm in the bud.
• Keep up-to-date with technology. Ask Jeanie how she prefers
to stay in touch. If she tends toward text messages and you
don’t, it’s time to learn. Check IMs and cell phone regularly.
• Jump on training opportunities. Learn new software
programs and attend communication workshops.
Jeanie is Robert’s boss — and they represent the new normal in
today’s workplace. A survey by Harris Interactive on behalf of
CareerBuilder.com finds that 69 percent of workers 55 and older
report to younger bosses. Baby boomers who delay retirement
often find themselves working for people young enough to be
their grandchildren. As we emerge from recession, it’s more
important than ever that every employee contribute their best.
A generational mix gives organizations an edge. A variety of
perspectives and approaches can increase a team’s creativity,
make them more responsive to a wide range of clientele,
contribute to broader-based decisions, and simply make the work
Yet the mix of generations can create challenges. The older
worker/younger boss configuration feels awkward to many. Just
a few years ago, people from different generations were separated
by rank and status. The oldest employees filled executive
positions, the middle-aged held mid-management jobs, and
the youngest worked on the front lines. In the scenario above,
Jeanie may sense that Robert feels superior even though she’s the
boss — while Robert may think Jeanie favors his younger, less
experienced, more tech-savvy colleagues.
Both Robert and Jeanie need to recognize the value each brings
to the table. Different generations have unique perspectives
on everything from workplace humor to work style and work
ethic. By understanding and accepting their differences, Robert
and Jeanie can tap each others’ strengths and work together to
produce solid business results.
To bring out Robert’s best, Jeanie may need to adapt her style.
Here are some steps to consider:
• Acknowledge his expertise. Identify Robert’s strengths, and be
open to learning from him. Tap into his experience.
• Consider giving Robert a bit more face time than might
be natural for you. For most baby boomers, relationship and
business results are intertwined. Get together for a cup of
coffee and get input on whatever issues are at hand.
• Give plenty of direction without micromanaging. Make
certain Robert is clear on your goals and standards, and let
him make his own decisions about how to reach them.
• Link your message to organizational vision and values.
Robert may have been part of the group who formulated
them, and the vision and values help him see where his
Claire Raines is a speaker, consultant, and co-author of “Generations
at Work” and eight other diversity books.
Visit generationsatwork.com or email Claire.
Training Industry Quarterly, Summer 2013 / A Training Industry, Inc. magazine / www.trainingindustry.com/TIQ
Table of Contents for the Digital Edition of Training Industry Quarterly - Summer 2013
Training Industry Quarterly - Summer 2013
From Where I Sit: Talent Management: An Emerging Business Strategy
Table of Contents
Guest Editor: Lessons from Shakespeare
Dealing with Trust Issues
Younger Boss, Older Worker
Four Skills Needed in the Future Workplace
Survive & Thrive with Performance Support
How to Optimize Behavior Change for Business Impact
Addressing the Skilled Trade Crisis
Cultural Differences in Training
Gender Communication in the Workplace
Meeting the Needs of Gen Y Learners
A Leaders 'Crashless' Course: Helping Employees Drive Career Development
DeVry: Growing Talent with Blended Learning Solutions
Live Face-to-Face Training Still Leads the Way
Training Industry Quarterly - Summer 2013