As both a Millennial and director of corporate marketing, Austin Paley sees all ends of the spectrum as far as how some older employees perceive his ability to act as a manager because of age.
“For the most part, I don't receive an excessive amount of negativity regarding my abilities,” said Paley, who works in New York. However, he admits upon starting his position, directors of other departments that had many more years of experience than he were at times apprehensive.
“For me, and much of the marketing team, when working with other teams at our company we often have to prove ourselves,” Paley added. “When collaborating with those employees that may be older, showcasing the unique value that I could bring to the table — as well as data to reflect the results I have been able to drive — serve as an effective way to prove my capabilities as a manager.”
More and more Millennials are finding themselves in Paley’s position — managing workers from generations that came before and having to prove themselves. A recent survey by development firm Future Workplace and career network Beyond found 83% of respondents have seen Millennials managing both Gen X-ers and Baby Boomers in their office. However, 45% of Baby Boomers and Gen X-ers who responded feel Millennials’ lack of managerial experience could negatively impact company culture.
“As more Baby Boomers retire, Millennials are moving into leadership positions and are faced with managing older generations, which they were never trained to do,” said Dan Schawbel, partner and research director at Future Workplace. “Millennials need to respect and support the needs and careers of Gen X and Baby Boomers if they want to learn, develop and eventually become the executives corporate America requires to move forward.”
Dana Humphrey, a 32-year-old Millennial who manages her own public relations firm in New York, started her business in 2008. In the beginning, she mainly hired interns but decided that was not going to work in the long run. She eventually hired full-time staff, including a Baby Boomer, to helped scale the business and has no regrets or problems managing those with longer experience.
“I had no reservations about hiring her,” Humphrey said. “She has the experience and contacts that I needed to round out the team. We work very well together."
Humphrey admits managing different generations can bring its own set of tests, but nothing that cannot be worked around.“One challenge I've experienced revolves around family traditions and life choices,” Humphrey said. “Older generations take certain holidays and events more seriously than younger generations. And an older person is going to value their personal commitments and their lifestyle more than a younger person.”
The survey also found while 44% of Millennial respondents think they are capable of leading in the workplace, only 14% of all respondents agree with this sentiment — with more than half saying they believe Gen X-ers are the most capable generation to lead organizations.
“Millennials are no longer new to the workforce, they’re now in the thick of it,” said Rich Milgram, CEO of Beyond. “However, a significant portion of the older employees they’re managing don’t have faith in their abilities.”Milgram said the only way to overcome that obstacle is through professional development — including formal training and mentoring —that benefits all generations and provides employees with the tools they need to lead.
One of the most important things to remember when considering what is needed to lead regardless of age is understanding strong managerial skills and strong skills in terms of talent with implementing certain initiatives are vastly different, Paley added.
“Some managers may be incredibly talented with managing their employees and understanding what style works best for them to achieve their objectives, while other managers may lack that element of expertise but be able to implement the strategies themselves,” Paley said. “Ultimately making the decision with what type of manager to hire depends on the needs of each company and their respective industry, regardless of age.”