Thursday, January 20, 2011

10 Things Boomer Managers Shouldn’t Have to Give Up

A while back I was reading a couple recent posts over at SmartBlog on Workforce about how boomers need to "botox their resumes" and learn to manage millennials.

While the posts are good, I’m even more entertained by the comments. Here’s one from an angry millennial (responding to some crotchety boomers):

“Whether you like it or not, Boomers, you are being replaced. This is called change, evolution. Don't worry though. Keep being crotchety. It will prepare you well for your upcoming retirement. Drink your cheap coffee. Plan ways to spend your social security. I'll do my best to stay off your lawn.”

OK, I’m a boomer manager, but I work with a lot of millennials – and most of my blog readers are under 30. So I think understand both sides, and can appreciate what each brings to the workforce. I like to think I’m keeping up to speed and adapting. For the most part, I’m willing to let go of the past and embrace a brave new world.

However – there’s a few things I’m NOT willing to give up as a boomer manager. These are things that are near and dear to me, I’ve worked hard for them, and if you try to take them away, I’ll fight back.

While I can’t speak for all boomer managers, here are 10 things I’d hate to give up:

1. Cheap coffee.
I can’t imagine corporate life with an endless supply of good ‘ol Joe. It’s the lifeblood of long meetings, and has proven positive health effects. I’m sorry, but I’ve tired those 5 hour energy drinks and they taste like medicine.
My team knows what makes me tick – they gave me Starbucks for Bosses Day. (-:

2. Formal business attire.
I like suits. They’re easy to buy and never go out of style. It’s easy to get dressed in the morning. I work for a company that has a formal dress code, and the Gen Y employees don’t seem to mind at all adapting to it. I have no evidence to support this, but it seems like when dress standards are lowered, other workplace standards get lowered as well.

3. My office.
Telecommuting, hoteling, and flexible work arraignments may be fine for some. For me, I’ll take my commute and showing up to the office every day (yes, I have an office with four walls and a door. I make no apologies). When I’m at work, I work, and when I’m at home, I don’t. I don’t like mixing them up.

4. Giving advice.
Yes, I try not to use phrases like “when I was your age”, or “back in the day”. However, I HAVE been around the block a few times, have made some mistakes, and have learned from them. Young, high potential employees seem to crave advice and guidance from their managers, and I’m all too willing to share it when appropriate. It’s called mentoring. It’s why I write this blog. I enjoy it and find it rewarding, so until I’m thrown out of my job or my readership dwindles to zero, I’ll keep doing it.

5. My manners.
Swearing has become acceptable in the workplace, even expected. I had to learn how to stop cussing when we had kids, so I’m not about to start doing it again just to fit in. I still open doors or give up my seat for women, and avoid crude humor.

6. My inner harmony.
For many, with age and experience comes a sense of inner harmony. I just don’t get as excited about trivial things anymore. That could be perceived by younger employees as a lack of passion or sense of urgency, but it’s not. The passion is still there, but my temper tantrum days are over. It’s been replaced with tolerance and patience.

7. My man comb.
A young lady noticed my pocket comb sticking out of my back pocket, and remarked “Oh, isn’t that cute, my grandfather used to have one of those”. Yikes! Now that was a senior moment – but I still carry it.

8. F2F meetings and training.
Hey, I’m a blogger and dedicated social networker. However, it’s no replacement for getting together with other knowledgeable and interesting people and exchanging ideas, solving problems, and building relationships. As for learning – I still like to hear from “the expert”. I find nothing wrong with a good old fashioned lecture and powerpoint, as long as it’s compelling and credible. My attention span is more than 5 minutes, and the cheap coffee keeps me alert.

9. My daily newspaper.
While not a workplace thing (more of a pre-work routine), I hope the day doesn’t come when I stumble out to my driveway in my robe and there’s no rolled up newspaper waiting for me. Yes, I love my RSS reader and online newsletters, but there’s nothing like a dirty newspaper to go with that mug of cheap coffee.

10. My performance standards.
At the end of the day, it’s all about performance. Yes, I’ll do my best to coach, develop, give recognition, empower, and provide flexibility. I’ll do that for ALL my employees, not just one generation. If you’re good, you’ll be challenged, grow, and thrive. However, I won’t tolerate anything less than top performance, regardless of age.

What do you think? What would you boomers add to the list? Is there anything here that’s making you millennials crazy, and why? Really, I’m willing to listen and change. Now get off my lawn. (-:


Scott Eblin said...

Hey Dan -

Kicking it old school, eh? You and me both, brother. When I was a kid my grandmother gave me a book on manners called, "Stand Up, Shake Hands, Say, 'How Do You Do?'. A lot of that stuck as, like you, I still open doors for women (and men for that matter).

Power to the old people!

Tour soon to be 50 friend -


Adi said...

Careful Dan, too much caffeine in meetings has a strange effect on men.

Dan McCarthy said...

Scott -
"Old"? Hey, 50 is the new 40. Enjoy your upcoming milestone!

Adi -
Oh oh, Cranky and forgetfull. That can't be good, might want to cut back a few mugs.

Unknown said...

This Gen-Xer enjoys watching Millennials and Boomers take turns accusing each other of being entitled.

Pot, kettle, and whatnot.

Dwane Lay said...

I was chuckling through this as a Gex-X kid as well. I think I agree with about half of them (coffee and professional dress especially), the rest didn't resonate. Sitting right between boomers and millennials, I guess that makes a lot of sense.

The real challenge, of course, if figuring out how to run an effective team with all those generational needs and wants effectively.

Thanks for sharing!

Anna Smith said...

My former boss used to regularly order 30 pairs of reading glasses (from a secret contact in a far away land) for $30 because he 'didn't want to waste time looking for them'. The office was full of them - there were reading glasses everywhere... Really?!!

Unknown said...

Dan -

I am a 35 year old Gen X'er and was raised by two hard-working boomers. Comments like the one you mentioned in your blog from young, immature millenials show a lack of foresight. Don't they realize that one day they too will need to work to stay relevant as the world changes??? I salute you, Dan, for remaining so.

Jim Taggart said...

Hey, I hear ya Dan as a just retired Boomer who's now consulting. I'm glad to be out of a hellhole organization (federal government), leaving it to the much more wise (note the hint of facetiousness) Gens X and Y.

As for the cheap coffee, I gave that up long ago.

Prediction: when the economy eventually recovers adequately, Gen Y will exit repressive organizations, starting their own businesses. As the father of four Gen Y adults, they have little capacity for Boomer bullshit.


Unknown said...

As much of this list doesn't resonate with me, I guess this Gen-Xer has a lot more in commomn with Millenials! Time to adapt Dan. :)

Unknown said...

Hi Dan,
As a millennial I don't see anything wrong with what you don't want to give up. Maybe it is because I am the offspring of boomer parents. High achieving millennials that I know don't have a problem with how boomers conduct business; they just want to be recognized and respected for the different way they learn, network, and process information. In my opinion, general rules and manners should remain the same.

Dan McCarthy said...

Mary Ellen –
Right, the Gen Xers seem to keep under the radar. BTW, for the record, I never insinuated Gen Yers are entitled (I know you did not say that, but I just wanted to be clear). My company hires and trains hundreds of Ys each year, and most have a great work ethic, with realistic expectations, and are eager to learn and contribute. So much of that stereotype is media-induced hooey.

Dwane –
So you’re right in the middle with Mary Ellen. I Agree, and I think it really comes down to managing individuals. My team only recently found out that the way I do performance reviews varies quite a bit with each of them. I hate it when they start comparing notes.(-:

Anna –
Funny! Did he ever forget they were on his head?

Mike –
Thanks. I’m sure trying. I’ve had a few role model elders that always managed to stay open to new things and keep a positive attitude. Sure beats becoming crotchety.

Jim –
Good luck with the consulting gig!

Mustafa –
I’m willing to give up the man comb.

Mackenzie –
Thanks! Please send me your resume. (-:

Anonymous said...


You’ve hit on one of my biggest peeves – the abrasive, arrogant attitude of the Millenials (not all, but some). More often than not, it is backed up by an under-performing work ethic and an expectation that they deserve promotions and benefits, rather than earn them.

I am a Gen-Xer that was fortunate enough to be mentored by hard working Boomers, such as yourself, that believe in traditional values. I currently supervise both crotchety Boomers and arrogant Millenials, The crotchety Boomer that is resistant to change is my second biggest peeve. Fortunately, I’ve found that there are a whole lot of good employees in between. Wouldn’t it be great if we could just pick the traits we liked from each generation and build the perfect employee? The strong work ethic and values of the Boomer generation combined with a willingness to embrace change and technology.

John Groth said...

Talked to a manager of a number of quick lube shops. Although he supplied the uniforms to many guys they were coming to work unshaven and sloppy. (Change the oil and filter and work on my $40,000 car and the teck looks like he doesn't know what he's doing and I probably won't visit the second time)He carried a shaving kit in his car and when he found an unshaven face-they shaved with cold water or they went home. After the word got around, his tecks looked better and he claims it positively impacted his business.

Dress code-I always dressed like my boss-in preparation for taking his job.

Ray Harnes said...


I'm new to your blog, but found this post to be in some ways quite refreshing. Like many of your readers I'm neither a boomer nor a millennial, but I can see many of the arguments such as telecommuting and dress code from both sides. There are some things though, that should be generation inspecific such as manners. I agree that the language of our society is much different than what has been considered appropriate in the past. It’s amazing to me the way swear words have sort of taken over as the modern vernacular for just about all occasions good or bad.
As for opening doors for women, I still do it too, but the funny thing is the perception of such acts has greatly changed. I remember being in college and going on a date with a young woman who actually got mad at and called me a chauvinist because I opened doors for her all night long. I was pretty taken aback. Regardless, it’s the way I was raised and I still insist on doing so, but it seems this is no longer the norm.
One thing I would have added to your list is respect for my elders. I still exhibit this and I’m 42 years old. I’ve always thought you can learn best from people who’ve been there and done that. I have seen a lot of older people treated poorly in places I’ve worked, simply because they’re older. It’s really kind of sad.
At any rate, our core values make us who we are. Not just in our personal lives, but really who we are at work also. So, our manners at work, pretty much indicate who we really are. I think as a manager, the manners and respect which is displayed by my employees can be very telling as to the type of employee I have on my hands. Just a thought.

Dan McCarthy said...

Erik -
Thanks for commenting. Again, I'm not so sold on the stereotypes you've pointed out - that wasn't the point of my post at all. Those traits - strong work ethic and a willingness to embrace change - should be expectations for any any employee.

John -
Thanks, good point on the perception of the customer when it comes to appearances.

Ray -
Welcome, and thanks for commenting. I like your points on respect and manners.

Bonnie Flatt|Leadership Coach said...

Hey Dan. I laughed when I read your blog being a boomer myself. Much of what you said resonated for me. Putting that aside, are we stereotyping here?
The bottom line is that regardless of the generation there are some common expectations in the market: respect for each other, great customer service, accountability and delivering results. How we do this will depend on the values and purpose of the organization and how the firm is organized. So whether you are a boomer, Gen X, Y or millenial, if you are clear about your values and purpose, if the firm is clear about its values and purpose and there is alignment between the two then there will be alignment, engagement and productivity. How we end up doing this will depend on the nature of the firm and its values and purpose.
Does this make sense? I would be interested in what others think?

Anonymous said...

Dan, Thanks so much for writing this. I'll be 50 this year and, like you, like the suits and the office. To me, work is work and home is home. Civility never goes out of style (at least I hope not) and face to face meetings help to foster that. Your post made me long for the good ol' days. (It's finally happened. I've turned into my grandparents! Gotta go find my reading glasses. Now where did I put them...?).

Sara Kmiecik said...

Great post! I am definitely forwarding this to other boomers!

Dan McCarthy said...

Bonnie -
Makes perect sense to me! Thanks.

anon -
This reading glasses thing sounds problematic. Good thin I wear "progressives".

Sara -

Unknown said...

Hi Dan,
I'd be happy to send you my resume! :) Never hurts to get your name out there!

Dan McCarthy said...

Mackenzie -
Thanks, it can't hurt . Wow, I think I need to update my resume format. (-:

Amy Wilson said...

Dan - please keep doing all of those things - especially the advice :)

Dan McCarthy said...

Amy -
I hope I can, thnaks!

working girl said...

I LOVE this post. That millennial comment is hilarious and your response is perfect. Oh, and I never realized that Boomers actually prefer cheap coffee.

Dan McCarthy said...

working girl -
Thanks! I have a confession.... every once in a while, I'll indulge in a starbuck's Caramel Macchiato, skim milk, extra hot, light whip.

Robin Paul said...

I reall enjoyed reading that....can't seem to stop reading!

Dan McCarthy said...

Robin -
Thanks, glad you like it.

Mr. Jones said...

"I have no evidence to support this, but it seems like when dress standards are lowered, other workplace standards get lowered as well."

Read the Malcolm Gladwell book, "The Tipping Point." When he talks about crime in NYC and how it was curbed, they started enforcing the small rules (subway fare evasion, graffiti, parking fines), and the larger crimes (murder, rape, robbery) went away.

He explained that when humans sense that they are in a nicer place, they act like they are in a nicer place. If they see graffiti everywhere, they are more likely to think about crime. When an employee sees suits everywhere, he/she acts professionally.

-Mr. Jones

Laura Schroeder said...

This is one of my favorite posts and I just blogged about it:

Dan McCarthy said...

Laura -
Thanks, better late than never! I enjoyed your post too.