Before I offend anyone by the title of this column, by old guy, I mean people like me, Baby Boomers in senior management positions. Certainly, this includes people of both genders, but I’m male so thus the column is named.
In recent months, I have been asked by many Baby Boomers how to properly communicate, motivate, lead, and retain Generation Y age employees. The reason for these questions is that there are huge differences between Baby Boomers and Gen Y’ers in regard to attitudes on work/life balance, comfort with technology, personal communication styles, motivations, current stage of life and a number of other factors.
By its nature, everything I’m going to say from here down is using stereotypes, which I dislike. Certainly there are people of all ages that don’t fall into the categories or traits listed here, but there are many people like me (remember, I’m using myself as the old guy stereotype) that think in this way. That said, if your boss is one of them, then this information may be valuable to your career.
There has been a large amount written on how Baby Boomers should manage Gen Y’ers, but much less has been written on how Gen Y’ers can get the attention, respect, and confidence of older employees in the leadership positions with the power to advance a Gen Y’ers’ career.
All that said, there are a number of things Gen Y’ers and Gen X’ers can do to make Baby Boomers take notice and help them get that wanted promotion.
Use the phone: By use the phone I mean call them, don’t text them. My age group grew up professionally using the phone and then, later in our professional life, email. It’s been my experience that Gen Y’ers aren’t generally inclined to call people on the phone. That said, you will stand out and be remembered.
Be polite: My generation grew up being told to say “please” and “thank you”. As a result, we have been engineered to appreciate it when people say “please” and “thank you” to us. There are, of course, a high percentage of Gen Y’ers and Gen X’ers that use good manners, but it is by no means as prevalent as it is with my generation.
Return email etiquette: When you receive an email from a Baby Boomer, reply using a similar format. If they begin with “Hi Joe” in every email, then you return every email with “Hello Eric”. If they end every email with a letter-like ending such as “Best wishes”, “Best”, “Thanks”, or another equivalent, return your emails with the same courtesy. The reason is that Baby Boomers grew up writing letters (dare I say) using pen and paper, putting them in envelopes, and dropping them in the mailbox. Letters of this type always had a salutation and an ending signature.
Spell out full words: When I see an email like “R U going today?” I think to myself that my kids write this way. They write that way because they are your age. That’s great, but in the workplace you don’t want people associating you with their kids, you want to be thought of as a business peer ready to be promoted.
Discuss technology at an appropriate level: As you read this, note that it’s coming from a life-long techie, former CIO and current CTO of a company I started. It’s easy for Gen X’ers and Gen Y’ers that grew up using technology to technically overpower those who did not grow up on technology. We are digital immigrants and you are digital natives. There is a difference.
Work hard: Baby Boomers have an extremely strong work ethic. As an example, when we graduated college, our rite of passage into the accounting, law, consulting, engineering, and other similar professions was to work eighty hours a week for the first three or four years to prove our worth, learn the ropes, and gain the experience needed to move up professionally. Baby Boomers like people with strong work ethics because it reminds you of us and everyone likes a “mini-me”, or should I say a “mini-them”.
If you have any questions about your career in IT, please email me at eric@ManagerMechanics.com or find me on Twitter at @EricPBloom.
Until next time, work hard, work smart, and continue to build your professional brand.
Read more of Eric Bloom's Your IT Career blog and follow the latest IT news at ITworld. Follow Eric on Twitter at @EricPBloom. For the latest IT news, analysis and how-tos, follow ITworld on Twitter and Facebook.