Young Talent vs. Old Bosses: Here's How Generational Differences Have Evolved

Last year, I wrote a post for Employee Evolution entitled, Helicopter Managing Fails With Some Gen Y & Corporate America's Pushing Back. In it, I outlined the frustration felt by managers and some of they ways they had chosen to revamp their workforce strategy so that they didn't have to deal with developing Gen Y talent. The post created a lot of discussion and inquiries, and hopefully, shifted more than a few readers perception of the situation. Fast forward a year and the job market is a very different place. So, the question arises: Has the situation changed? The answer is both, “Yes" and “No." Let me explain… Online savvy, coupled with career angst, has pushed Gen Y to take the situation by the horns. A simple Google search on the key terms “Gen Y Career Blog" yields 240,000 entries. Young professionals are sharing their thoughts, frustrations and fears in an effort to find solace and satisfaction. My firm worked privately on the career strategy of over 70 twentysomethings last year alone. The good news is that Gen Y's true career reality upon graduation is finally being conveyed to those that need to know: a diploma is little more than a ticket to the career starting line. Smart Gen Y are seeking guidance from experts (and I don't mean their parents!) and learning how to manage up so they can achieve career results that make them feel successful. Managers have learned a thing or two as well. A reality check and ownership of their mistakes have helped them see that A) like it or not, Gen Y is the next generation of leaders, and B) there is a HUGE differences between managing and coaching Gen Y talent. More than 500 executives participated in a dynamic multi-generational coaching program designed to help leaders leverage generational differences and enhance communication between team members of all ages. More than a few of these talent managers approached me at the break and said, “Wow, I've been complaining about Gen Y employees all this time, but now I see how I've been a part of the problem." In fact, to help both managers and parents understand the difference, I created a free e-book entitled, Stop Hovering: 10 Rules for Effective Elevator Parenting. The book provides readers with some much needed perspective on the impact Helicopter Parenting/Managing has negatively affected the Gen Y young professional. It also outlines how Elevator Parenting/Managing creates a more independent, resourceful and most importantly, happy Gen Y adult/employee. Those are the good things I've seen evolve in the last year. However, all is not rosy. The enhanced discussion around the disconnect between Gen Y and management has also caused some bad behavior and added frustration on both sides. Stories of Gen Y professionals texting in their resignations to corporate jobs and managers making offensive remarks about Gen Y's intelligence haven't helped the effort to get the two sides working better together. The overall mindset of each group actually reminds me of the Kubler-Ross 5-stage model of grief. It's as if Gen Y has moved past anger ("We're not going to take it!" was last year's mantra), and is currently hanging in between bargaining and depression. While management has cleared denial and sits squarely in anger. ("It's not us, it's them." has been replaced with, “This isn't fair - I'm ready to retire and now I have to coach a bunch of kids on the fundamentals?!") The solution? Time and dedication to the personal and professional growth of both sides. We must continue to identify the challenges of a multi-generational workforce and try to find new ways to achieve results that satisfy both sides. Gen Y and management need to strive for stage five - acceptance. In fact, here are three recommendations for each to consider:

Gen Y

  1. Leverage professional development resources (books, online career tools, videos, courses, blogs, strategists, etc.) and build a plan to make your Career Identity (the 10 second answer you want to be able to articulate when somebody asks, “What do you do?") a reality.
  2. Stay put in a job for two years and teach yourself how to be satisfied with your life even if you aren't satisfied with your job. You'll be able to prove to future employers you've got sticking power and are worth investing in.
  3. Find a life mentor(s) (not just a career coach and someone outside your immediate family) and work with them to make changes that will yield new/different results and experiences you can learn from. I know I'm stating the obvious, but please be sure to reward your mentor with lots of updates on your progress and plenty of thanks for the time and energy they give you.


  1. Have your coaching and communication skills inventoried to determined how prepared you are to coach Gen Y and integrate them into your multi-generational team. Then, get the appropriate resources and training to develop/enhance your skills.
  2. Succession plan by identifying young talent and carving out specific time in your schedule to give them the one-on-one they want and need to speed up their ability to meet and exceed your expectations.
  3. Assess your corporate/departmental culture and look for ways that you can create an environment that transcends generational differences. Regardless of age, what are the key elements of your business strategy that speak to all employees and what can you do to create opportunities to enforce unity?
The reality is only the true opportunists from both sides will be the ones who see value in the above and will take the steps necessary to capitalize on the situation. Gen Y who embrace these recommendations will see fast-track growth in their careers. Managers who do the same will be seen as effective leaders. The choice is yours - what will you do? I'd personally like to see Part III of this post next year outlining significant growth. I hope readers of this post feel the same. If so, please share what you've read here. Offering new perspective is the best way to plant the seed of growth.