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Just How Old Are You?: Boomers And Younger Bosses

Remember the movie In Good Company? Here’s a refresher: Dennis Quaid plays a middle-aged advertising sales executive faced with a new boss (Topher Grace) nearly half his age. Matters are made worse when Topher Grace begins a relationship with Dennis Quaid’s daughter.

Remember the movie In Good Company? Here’s a refresher: Dennis Quaid plays a middle-aged advertising sales executive faced with a new boss (Topher Grace) nearly half his age. Matters are made worse when Topher Grace begins a relationship with Dennis Quaid’s daughter.

More recently, we’ve watched Adam, a Generation Xer, on NBC’s Parenthood grapple with working for a younger boss –a Generation Y. (View the clip above.)

This fictional movie and television plot features a very real workplace situation: the younger boss – older employee dynamic. As Baby Boomers delay retirement and work until older ages, it is more likely they will have a younger boss.

In fact, according to a recent AP report, nearly half of all Baby Boomers (born 1946-1964) already report to a younger boss.

This generational shift can create challenges in the workplace. Competition, bruised egos, and different management styles can derail a working relationship. Both sides need to rise above the tension and work together to move the business forward. However, that can be easier said than done.

Some tips for young bosess: respect the experience of the Boomer and recognize that they have a lot of experience. Rather than view them as relics of the past, use them and pick their brains, and treat them as you want to be treated. Create training opportunities for them and keep them motivated.

Some tips for the Boomers answering to younger bosses: Be open to fresh ideas and new approaches that a younger manager may bring to the job, don’t openly compete with a younger supervisor or belittle him or her because of age, and by all means don’t act like a parent to the younger boss.

By looking past differences and focusing on strengths, workers of any generation can create a cohesive workplace. Tell us your thoughts about the older employee – younger boss dynamic.

Are you or have you been in this situation? We’d love to hear from you!

Sarah Sladek

Concerned about declining engagement in our nation’s membership associations, non-profits, and workplaces, Sarah Sladek founded XYZ University, the nation’s first and only generations-focused training and engagement strategy company, in 2002.

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