Millennial managers have their share of troubles managing Boomers — or so they say. We talked with Boomers who work for Twenty- somethings and Thirtysomethings and they weren’t shy about dissing their young bosses. Here are some of their complaints and what they’d like their bosses to do.
1. “Ask me how I think something should be done.” Millennials are famously uninterested in hearing how things were done last month, much less years ago. They want minimal discussion and maximum results. Boomers want to talk while they work and they want a boss who listens. This makes for on-going cross-generational irritation.
2. “At least act interested in me as a human being.” Millennial managers have fire walls between work and personal relationships. If they just faked interest in the lives of older employees there would be less friction in the workplace. A Boomer told me that when he told his manager that he’d just become a grandfather the boss said, “O.K.” He didn’t congratulate the Boomer or seem to think this was an important event.
3. “Stop pretending office politics doesn’t exist.” Boomers are vitally interested in everything that happens in the workplace. For them work is social. They have friends at work. “I would love to see my 30-year-old boss acknowledge that not all her decisions are logical. She pretends she’s indifferent to everything but getting the job done. Still, I’ve seen her ‘change her mind’ because her boss wanted something done a particular way.”
4. “Break the bad news to me gently.” Boomers report a maximum of bluntness and a minimum of finesse, if any. Is that necessary? Couldn’t younger bosses learn to make a sandwich: good news, bad news, good news? Younger managers tell us it’s too emotionally exhausting to worry about people’s’ feelings. That may be true but is it better management?
5. “Why can’t we have an occasional staff meeting?” It is well-known that Millennial managers are allergic to meetings and can barely endure the ones they must attend. To schedule a meeting with direct reports is horrifying. However, the direct reports think their input is unwanted — and aggressively so. Boomers know that sooner or later the young manager will make a mistake and they will take revenge by not intervening. Who needs that? Remember that Boomers have superior political skills and will use them if sufficiently provoked.
Finally, while Millennial managers have superior technical skills, those don’t help with managing people. Making Boomers feel valued is an excellent way to get cooperation and perhaps learn where the landmines are. The Boomers know.
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