Millennial Managers: How to Manage Gen X and Boomer Employees

managerThe shift is real. Millennials moved into management roles at a rate of 87 percent from 2008 to 2013. If you’re a millennial in manager, you’ve probably experienced the different ways employees from the Gen X and baby boomer generations work. You may have also experienced employee apprehension about your skills and authority because of your age or perceived lack of managerial experience. As a manager, it’s your job to give employees an environment in which to succeed. What’s the best way to manage employees who are older and have vastly different working styles? Let’s find out.

Understand the Differences

Longtime entrepreneur Steve Voudouris explains his management style saying, “The key to successful management is understanding and supporting the strengths each employee brings to the table.” That statement has never been more true than in the millennial manager/older employee paradigm. Successful managers know their employees individual strengths, weaknesses and styles and provide an atmosphere that breeds success.

Gen X and baby boomers grew up in vastly different worlds. Gen X has been described by PEW Research Group as the “neglected middle child.” Stuck between two larger generational groups, the baby boomers before and millennials after, Gen X has never received the press and scientific attention of the two larger groups.

EY, formerly Ernst & Young, surveyed 1,200 professionals across the United States. The results provide intriguing insights into the differences in generations, based on the perceptions of their peers. In the survey, members of Gen X were perceived as more effective managers than either baby boomers or millennials. They were also considered more adaptable, capable of generating more revenue, better problem-solvers and more collaborative in their dealings with co-workers. Members of the Gen X scored lowest on the scale when it came to cost-effective spending at work and displaying an executive presence. And, what job perk was most important to Gen X respondents? Workplace flexibility was the most valued job benefit. In fact, 38 percent of Gen X respondents were likely to walk away from a job if it didn’t meet their flexibility standards.

Baby boomers were most likely raised by parents who had experienced the Great Depression and WWII. Hard work and a waste-not-want-not attitude was the norm, the same attributes they bring to the workforce today. The EY survey found that boomers ranked highest in productivity, mentoring, hard work and as team players. Not surprisingly, boomers ranked lowest when it came to adaptability. According to the survey results, health care and retirement benefits were ranked as the most important perks for boomers.


Understanding what makes employees tick is the first step. To create a workplace atmosphere of productivity, follow these tips:

  • Strive to keep everyone engaged. Avoid implying that older workers are being pushed out by younger employees.
  • Innovate by tapping into diverse age groups. You have employees with a variety of job skills and life experiences. Bringing them together to collaborate and brainstorm not only leads to creative ideas, it fosters a sense of community.
  • Honor the contributions each employee makes. Yes, each employee is different, but so are their contributions.

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