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Generation Y

When Boomers Behave Badly

At a recent workshop, one of the participants complained about their Gen Y workers. As an example of the “horrors” that Boomer managers have to deal with, he said indignantly. “Some Gen Yers even bring their parents along on interviews!”A couple of the other participants nodded in sympathy.

At a recent workshop, one of the participants complained about their Gen Y workers. As an example of the “horrors” that Boomer managers have to deal with, he said indignantly. “Some Gen Yers even bring their parents along on interviews!”A couple of the other participants nodded in sympathy. Another mentioned that they had gotten a call from a Gen Yer’s parent asking how their son had done in the interview! Everyone agreed that was a prime example of how Gen Yers completely don’t understand how to behave properly in the workplace.When I heard that though, I wanted to jump up and yell. “Wait a minute! Hold up! You can’t blame this one on Gen Yers!”Let me explain. Even if the parents of Gen Y workers are coming along for job interviews or asking to be involved in salary discussions – that is not necessarily the fault of the Gen Yer!

This is actually a prime example of a Boomer Behaving Badly. Yes, Gen Yers are nervous about their first interviews and salary negotiations. Who wouldn’t be? Basically nothing in our 18 years of schooling prepares us for the actual interviewing process.And most salary negotiations are generally about the employer trying to get the best employee they can for the least amount of money and benefits. If a hiring manager can low-ball an employee for any reason, they probably will. So it’s easy for an inexperienced Gen Yer to get taken advantage of – especially since (after years of scraping by on peanuts in college) any steady salary rate sounds like a fortune.So we worry, and we freak out about this to our parents. (As I’m sure Xers and Boomers did to their own parents.) This isn’t anything remarkable.

The problem occurs when a Boomer parent listens to their Gen Yer and decides that the best solution is simply for them to come along!This is what surprises me about the situation. Boomers have been in the workplace for years. They know what’s expected and what’s not. They (justifiably) get annoyed when younger workers behave improperly. And yet, some Boomers apparently think it’s appropriate for them to come along on interviews and even to call the interviewer afterward to see how their son or daughter did.

It’s unbelievable that those Boomers even considered that to be an option. They should know better. Most Boomers do. For example, when I was being treated badly in a former job, my father wanted to call my boss and speak to her. He knew that she was taking advantage of my inexperience – and as a former HR manager, he knew she had no legal ground to stand on.But he didn’t call her. Instead, he took the time to discuss the issue thoroughly with me so I understood where I was entitled to stand firm. And my mother, who was also upset with the situation, helped me practice what I would say and proofread my emails.They were involved, and they gave me valuable advice that made sure my inexperience didn’t work against me. But they stayed in the background – as they should. They knew it would be out of line for them to handle the issue for me.

So, when you see that Gen Yer sitting there in the waiting room with their mother or father, don’t lay the blame on the young person you’re interviewing. There could be easily several issues at play. The Gen Yer could be so relieved to be getting help that they allowed their parent to come along – and they might not know that it’s inappropriate. But there’s also the possibility that the Boomer insisted that they come along – and the Gen Yer is totally mortified. (We frequently are when our parents behave badly.)There’s one thing that is absolutely certain: that Baby Boomer parent should have known better.

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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