This keynote session at ALSHRM led by Meaghan Johnson started out as many of these “generations” speeches do. The speaker asks the audience to start listing things about Gen Y that annoy them and the crowd goes wild ranting about the worst possible example they can think of (completely dismissing the dozens of others in the same demographic without all the flaws). I was sure it was going to be a dud, but then the speaker turned it around on the audience by pointing out that the characteristics were those of a specific age group, not a generation group. Almost everyone acts like a goof when they are 20 years old, whether it’s 1950 or 2011. Don’t blame it on “Gen Y” or something else. :-)

A few other pertinent points

  • Knowledge retention-The knowledge loss of boomers leaving the workforce should be the focus for this generation stuff, not complaining about Gen Y/Gen X/Boomers or how to cope with them at work.
  • Informal knowledge-Boomers know the intricate details of how the business works. They know who to talk to to get a problem solved under the radar. They know who to avoid on Monday mornings before they’ve had their coffee. They know those things that you won’t find in any process manual or employee handbook.
  • Teach ’em tech-Boomers aren’t scared of technology. They want to know how using technology makes work or life easier, not just using technology for its own sake.
  • A touch of nostalgia-Younger generations have something very special to offer the older ones: passion. Remind them why they started working in the job/company/industry in the first place. Renew their spirit. That’s been the success story for my own blog. I started writing to reach out to other people just getting started in their own HR careers, but I was found and followed by people with senior-level experience who enjoyed seeing the profession through my own fresh perspective.

All in all, it was a great session and prompted some interesting thoughts. While I get tired of the same old “generation conversation,” this one gave a few twists that really made it valuable for me.

how to handle a young managerFor most of us, it’s not reality, but having a young supervisor is obviously a phenomenon that is fairly widespread. At first glance, I’m thinking, “Yeah! Go for it young people!” And then I realized I could be one of those who has a younger manager one day; it made me stop and think. It would be a challenge, but it’s something we may all run into at some point in our careers.

Here is the breakdown according to the SHRM website poll for the question What is your age in relation to your supervisor?:

  • I’m Older-26%
  • I’m Younger-56%
  • I’m About the Same-18%

I think the toughest one on there has to be being older than your manager. But on the flip side, it has to be stressful for a manager to step into a role with subordinates that could be twice his/her age. I’m certainly not saying we shouldn’t have a wide range of managers, because great managing talent/ability is found in all sorts of individuals, no matter how many years are under their belt. Simply making the observation that this could be a friction point between a good manager and an otherwise good employee if age is lumped in.

Interesting stuff! So, where do you fall on the list? Are you older than your supervisor, younger, or about the same?