Archive for September, 2008

Baby Boomer’s difficulty working with GenX and GenY employees and or supervisors.

September 25, 2008

Why is it a challenge for some baby boomers to work for younger bosses or with co-workers who are younger than them?


First, Boomers (I am one) came of age under a hierarchical industrial culture that was heavy with authoritarian leadership in the home, at school, in religious institutions and at work. The lines were very clearly defined and authority figures were to be honored and respected because of their position. And often that position was based upon longevity as much as it was competency.


Higher education was less prevalent and harder to afford for Boomers and thus the rise to management for them was a longer, harder road than those in the X and Y generation, who often walk out of college into the workforce, and quickly achieve mid-level management status without the real-world experience to make them intuitively effective in such a position.


Most Boomers feel because of longevity that they should be in the authority position. Interestingly, though as young adult idealists their mantras were, “Question authority!” and “Trust no one over 30!” they now reflect much of the beliefs of the previous generations they questioned, and are haunted by the philosophy they passed on to their children. This should not be a huge shock because try as we may, our worldviews are heavily shaped by previous generations’ values. (I.e.; we tend to parent similarly to the way we were parented. Don’t believe it? When was the last time you heard something that your mother said to you as a child come out of your mouth when you were talking to one of your own children? J)


Another factor that makes it difficult to work for Boomers to work for those younger, is their tendency to believe that they have all the answers. After all, they are the generation that was going to right all the wrongs, create world peace and equality for all. So they tend to want to tell rather than ask. This often alienates the X and Y generations who are used to participating in the conversation and collaborating to find solutions.


In youth Boomers’ disdained materialism, but in adulthood have embraced it. Boomers wrote the book on working their way to the top in order to procure the things they want, as well as find meaning in their work. They allowed their job positions and possessions to define them to such an extent that it is said that they “live to work.” Younger generations tend to “work to live” reflecting a different priority, which becomes an irritant.

 Authored By: Rolfe Carawan