Q: I have been promoted to a position supervising a team of five employees. Two of them are what I would call baby boomers, the others are closer to my age (I’m 35).
Although I have years of experience as a supervisor, these two employees would be my first time supervising this age group, and I’m afraid it’s going to be awkward since they could easily be my parents. Any tips to get off to a good start?
A: Congrats on the promotion!
The topic of intergenerational differences in the workplace is fascinating to me and I’m glad that –as an older millennial of 35 (gasp!)- you’ve recognized this as an important issue in managing your team. Millennials, gen-xers and baby boomers DO have different preferences in communication style and business etiquette, as well as the type of feedback they expect.
Here are some suggestions for supervising baby boomers:
When possible, communicate in person or by phone instead of by text or email. Whereas millennials are happy to avoid a phone conversation, boomers prefer it. So don’t be afraid to pick up the phone.
Mind your manners. Boomers value business etiquette. That means, greetings in the morning, courtesy acknowledgements, please and thank-yous. Avoid profanity and TMI (too much information) about personal subjects. Millennial might be okay with sharing their most embarrassing moments, but boomers value privacy and decorum at work.
Reconsider how often to give feedback. Boomers don’t have the same high craving for feedback that millennials have. It’s very possible that they prefer to be left alone to do their work with minimum input from their supervisor.
Lastly and most importantly, treat them as individuals. Just because we are free to paint others with a broad brush doesn’t mean that we are not individuals. Each of us is unique, and can easily defy stereotypes. I know a backpack-wearing fifty-something who rides his skateboard to work every day who’s a millennial at heart.
So, treat each one on your team as a one-of-a-kind. Get to know them, meet with each face-to face. What motivates them? What do they like and dislike about their jobs? What ideas or concerns do they have? What type of supervisory style do they prefer?
Then, you’ll certainly be off to a good start.
©Copyright Eva Del Rio