Tuesday, August 28, 2007

Ms. Theologian Raises Your Value

Dear Ms. Theologian:

As the baby-boomer with 17 plus years of valued experience and service in this organization, I am working for someone who is 27, with a PhD. Very intelligent, but does not have any management experience and about 2 years (or less) with this organization. I sense I am being marginalized in favor of the younger 20 and 30 somethings with MAs and PhDs. How do I overcome this and raise my value in this environment?

Dear Baby Boomer:

For a long time, Ms. Theologian thought that this generation gap business in the workplace was a load of hooey. She thought that if you treated people fairly and with respect, they would work together well. But no. Really. No.

She now thinks it is helpful to look at the workplace as a mingling of four generations (Institutionalist, Baby Boomers, Gen X, Gen Y) with radically different expectations and attitudes, and the greatest differences are between Baby Boomers and Generation X. Ms. Theologian has even gone so far as to interview Lewis Richmond about some of these generational differences. She takes this seriously.

You will find Workplace Generation Gap helpful with your query in terms of general ways to relate to Generation X. You'll want to read the entire article, but here is a relevant excerpt:

If you're a baby boomer, rely on these tips to smooth interactions with your generation X co-workers:

  • Get to the point. Avoid corporate jargon, buzzwords and cliches that obscure what you're really trying to say. State your objectives clearly when communicating with generation Xers.
  • Use e-mail. Take advantage of technology in your correspondence with a generation Xer. Save meetings for issues which require face-to-face communication, and use e-mail when the matter can be handled via a well-worded, concise written message.
  • Give them space. Don't micromanage generation Xers. Generation Xers crave autonomy. Give them direction and then allow them to figure out the best way to get results.
  • Get over the notion of dues paying. As a baby boomer, you worked 60 hours a week to get ahead. Maybe you started at ground level and worked your way up in a company. You think members of younger generations ought to do the same. But generation X — which values a healthy work-life balance — typically isn't spending that many hours in the office. And they're getting ahead anyway.
  • Lighten up. Remind yourself that it's OK for work to be fun. Generation Xers tend to think you're too intense and set in your ways.
Let me know how that works. I'm not sure it concentrates so much on demonstrating your value as understanding Generation X and adopting some of their behaviors. If you don't see any improvement, email at ms dot theologian at gmail dot com.

-Ms. Theologian