Working More Effectively with Boomers

I recently attended the 75th HRPA Annual Conference and Trade Show as a volunteer. Now of course I went as a volunteer because that way I could avoid the overpriced ticket and also add the experience to my resume. Not only did I not have to pay for it but after carefully discussing the opportunity with my supervisor she allowed me to take leave with pay from work, taking into account this was professional development. This was a win win!

At this conference my role was to introduce the guest speakers, no problem for me as I love speaking. One of the speakers I introduced dedicated his hour time slot to explain “How to work with Millennials.” I was intrigued, especially since the man explaining how to work with Millennials could not have been under 50 years old himself. This got me thinking. If a Boomer can teach “How to Work with Millennials” then why can’t a Millennial teach “How to Work with Boomers?”

First we need to define the two generations.

Boomers (1946-1964): live to work, strong work ethic, democratic, value ambition

Millennials (1981-1994): fast paced, impatient, creative, collaborative, goal-oriented(Check out more characteristics here: http://www.wmfc.org/uploads/GenerationalDifferencesChart.pdf)

Now that we have more information, here are my 5 tips for working with Boomers:

  1. Chances are this person has worked for the company for a very long time, that means longer than you. Show some respect.When you are a fresh graduate sometimes you think that your brand new diploma makes you somehow better than everyone else. However, showing loyalty to the organization will be key in building strong working relationships with Boomers (see #4).
  2. Sell your skills and abilities. Gain their trust by proving that you are not just “some kid.” Even though we have been told not to, people always judge books by their covers. We are all human and can’t help it. Boomers might see Millennials as young, unskilled, or demanding. Your job is provide them with factual evidence that your are capable, eager and that you want to do a great job. Never expect these to gain trust if you don’t put in the effort with a Boomer.
  3. Don’t ever let a Boomer dampen your stride. Most Millennials are naturally ambitious and this can be irritating for someone who worked for 40 years to get to their position. However, ambition is a wonderful trait and I encourage you set high standards for yourself and your career. However, be sure to manage your expectations and set realistic goals.
  4. Drink up that corporate Kool-Aid and show them that you are dedicated and loyal to the organization. This role is not disposable to you and you will try your hardest every day for the greater good of the company.
  5. Ask lots of questions but at the same time be very careful in the way you ask for something.I repeat ask. Certain things are privileges not to be taken advantage of, for example time off or working from home. Work flexibility is a relatively new concept and many Boomers did not have this luxury. These can be great perks but if you start expecting this treatment and not asking your supervisor for such things, you will quickly lose credibility.

The number one take away is that when working with a Boomer they might require a little more time to build trust and they want to know that you are willing to put in the work to reap the benefits. Boomers are workcentric so use this as common ground, show that you are invested and set realistic expectations for the rate of your career development. Time equals money, and the more time you put in the better off you will be.

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