One of the undoubted privileges that we have in TomorrowToday Global is to be invited to participate or to speak at numerous talent programs. These are programs that are filled with young people entering the workplace – highly qualified, very enthusiastic and eager to make their mark on their new environment.
Very often as you engage in deeper conversations with these eager young people you come across a question that’s framed differently but often has the same kind of undertone to it. The question is how on earth do I get on with my boomer boss? He or she just seems to be on a different planets to my own way of seeing the world and my way of doing things. Of course there’s lots of stories we could tell you around this.
I remember one young person on a talent programme informing me – it was a law firm, that the boss had invited him to a very important client briefing meeting. As the senior partner took them they were thrilled at the opportunity to be invited. They got to the meeting and their responsibility was to record it.
As you would expect, if you are younger person, at the outset of the meeting they whipped out their smartphone, hit record and put it on the table! The senior partner wasn’t pleased – you see – recording the meeting for him was taking out a fountain pen, a little notepad and recording every word that was said and then giving him the manuscript. It was a real perplexing situation to this young article clerk who thought that he would be doing a good job by recording it in a way that was akin to him.
Here’s the point – if you want to get on with your boss you need to understand that they have a different way of doing business! They have a different way of seeing things.
At best they’re not going to be techno- literate. They might be semi-literate when it comes to technology; they might be suspicious of it, threatened by, or not welcome it at all. You, on the other hand, have grown up in a world full of technology, and using technology is as natural as breathing.
One of the things I can suggest to you is to become sensitive around your boss’s techno-literacy. See what they’re happy to go with, what they are happy to engage with.
Very often smart bosses engage in what we call reverse mentoring. In this process, if they are smart, they’ll come to you and say “could you help me understand how to use this technology, and what it is capable of doing and not doing.”
Another tip I’d give you is to understand that they set the pace, and boomers are hard workers. In fact, the term workaholic was invented to describe the boomer work ethic. If you are working for a boomer boss who is a workaholic you are going to need to work hard! The reason I say that is because that will earn their respect and you need respect to form any kind of working relationship. Understand what it is they gauge respect by and then make sure you do your best to measure up to those expectations.
It will probably mean coming in early, staying a bit late. It will certainly mean working hard, and it will certainly mean doing things that maybe you don’t think a part of your job description, or are things that you shouldn’t be asked to do. But do them. Because that earns you respect. It takes you to a new level of engagement and you can then work it out from there.
There are a number of things that younger staff members who are working for an older generation boomer boss needs to be aware of. My colleague, Graeme Codrington, wrote a wonderful book called Mind the Gap, which speaks about generational theory. Go and get a copy of Mind the Gap and read it.
Make notes as to what is pertinent to your particular situation and circumstance. There is a lot you can do – it’s a great learning curve and the more you step up to, the better you’ll be for having made the effort and for that experience.
If you enjoyed this video – you might find our video ‘The challenge for Boomer who lead the younger Gen X and Gen Y generations‘ a good one to share!
Speak to our team for more information on ways our team can help the different generations in your workplace work together more effectively.