May 25, 2024


The finest in babby

The Baby Boomer’s Management Challenge

3 min read

Managing people in today’s work environment can be a challenging task. The root cause of the challenge is not management style or corporate culture; it is generation based where there are real differences in personal values and work ethic.

What I am writing about is nothing new from an informational perspective. What I hope will be new is my approach, the practical application of a solution to one of today’s management challenges. The identity of the four working generations is common knowledge.

  • The Traditionalists (Born Between 1922 & 1945)
  • The Baby Boomers (Born Between 1946 & 1964)
  • Generation X (Born Between 1965-1980)
  • Generation Y (Born After 1980)

Since the majority of Traditionalist has retired at this point, I would say the current challenge is between the Baby Boomer and Generation X and Y employee. Although in some work scenarios a Generation X employee might be managing a Baby Boomer, the highest management probability is when the Baby Boomer is in charge.

In just about everything that has been written on the subject, three categories are used to illustrate the generational differences. They are; values, personal attributes, and work ethic. In my illustration, there is only one area, and that is attitude. If there is going to be conflict that will be the root cause.

The Players

John is 52 years old, and is a Baby Boomer. He is married with three children. He donates to charities on a regular basis, and volunteers his time once a year to help an organization that supports the homeless. At work, Harry is goal oriented and believes that teamwork is the only way to win. Although he dislikes conflict and does his best to avoid those situations, over the years he has learned to adapt to changing work environments.

His first direct report is a man named Allen. He is 38 years old, and is considered a Generation X person. He is married with two children. Allen works hard to contribute to the company’s financial success. For that effort, he wants personal recognition from John. Allen also wants more flexibility with his work hours and has a philosophy that you work to live not the other way around. He sees himself as highly marketable and is not impressed by John’s Director Title. Allen prides himself on is his adaptability, something he learned growing up when his mother started working in order to help pay the bills.

His second direct report is a woman named Mary. She is 25 years old, and is a considered a Generation Y person. Mary is not married. One of her core values is; respect must be earned it is not freely granted based on age or job title. She is exceptionally resilient and totally committed and loyal when dedicated to an idea or cause. Mary can get bored easily and loves to multi-task. One thing on her resume that caught HR’s attention was her technology experience. During the interview, she talked about her craving to help people learn and adapt to new technologies.

The Challenge

John looked at the compliance audit and was disappointed with the score. He knew he and his team would have to improve the numbers or face the consequences of a reduced revenue stream from the state.

He considered two approaches for his meeting with Allen and Mary; just tell them what they must do to improve the scores and order them to comply; or find common ground and have them come up with the solution. Being aware of their age differences, John decided to be creative in his approach.

The Solution

John designed an insight tool called a problem solver. He then held the meeting where he, Allen and Mary used the problem solver together as a team. The idea was to use the values and work ethic of each generation to help identify the problem, and then find a solution based on a series of very specific questions. The result was they all took personal ownership of the problem and were willing to adapt, to make the required behavioral changes to improve the scores of the next compliance audit. There was synergy, the energy that comes from sharing a positive attitude about performance improvement.

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