In 2011, this blog featured an article that posed the question: Would you hire your own kid?
And now, just three years later, the question has become: Could you work for your kid or someone your kid’s age?
What on earth happened between 2011 and 2014? And how on earth is it possible for someone who is 50-something to be managed by someone who is 20-something?
We can blame economics and demographics for this major change-up. By 2015, Generation Y (1982-1995) will be 39% of the U.S. workforce. This is the largest generation in history, wielding tremendous power and influence. Within the next decade, Gen Ys could comprise as much as 75% of the global workplace.
If you’re a Boomer (1946-1964), you might be thinking that’s not a real concern because by 2025 you will be happily retired, sipping on pina coladas by the pool.
But let’s face it. Our nation’s economy isn’t booming and retirement is gosh-darned expensive. As a result, economists predict more than 80% of Boomers will have to work past the age of 65 because they don’t have enough money to retire.
What does this mean? It means at some point you’ll probably find yourself working for a younger boss.
It will be a reality similar to the plot portrayed in the 2004 movie, In Good Company, about a middle-aged executive (Dennis Quaid) answering to a new boss who is half his age (Topher Grace).
Functioning in a workplace dominated by Gen Y will be a very different experience for Boomers and Gen Xers (1965-1981) who both tend to be success-driven, strong individualists, and independent thinkers. In contrast, Ys are driven to make a difference, function well in teams, and are highly social creatures.
As more Ys move into management, we can expect some major changes to occur, such as more women promoted to leadership, redesigned offices to allow for open-concept work spaces, telecommuting as the norm, and social platforms used to manage daily employee performance.
In the meantime, here are a few tips for getting in good graces with your younger boss:
Avoid the good ol’ days. No one appreciates being told the workplace was better 30 years ago, given the ‘I was working when you were in diapers’ shtick, or the ‘been there done that’ excuse. If you are referencing the past, also be complimentary and respectful of today’s standards and a new boss’s methods.
Abandon stereotypes. You might think your young boss doesn’t know enough to be in a position of authority. Meanwhile, your boss is thinking you’re going to be difficult to manage and resistant to change. (Are you?) Try to abandon the stereotypes and keep an open mind.
Share ideas. Ys have a collaborative spirit. They will be receptive to your input if it’s framed as an innovative idea, not a condescending complaint. Rather than saying, ‘You don’t know what you’re doing,’ draw from your experiences and try saying, ‘When I’ve done things this way, I’ve been successful.’
Compromise. Ys like to work together, but Boomers and Xers are independent workers. If your younger boss tries to accommodate your preferred working style, then you should return the favor and adopt some collaborative practices. It’s important to be flexible, compromise, and complement each other’s strengths.
Be patient. Ys sometimes struggle to make executive decisions and they may involve others in the process. This approach to decision-making contradicts the styles of Boomers and Xers. Remember: neither approach is right or wrong. They are simply different.
Explain why. Gen Y managers feel that to be successful, they must share ‘the why’ behind what they’re doing as a manager. Not only will Y managers openly and frequently communicate with their employees, they will expect their employees to openly and frequently communicate with them, too.
Be an employee. Your boss wants to see you as an employee, not a stand-in parent. Avoid mentioning your children as if they’re relevant to your boss’ situation or treating your boss like your own child. Doing so can strike your boss as inappropriate or a desperate act to try to forge a relationship.
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