My life as a Millennial Consulting Associate Reporting to an Unnamed Gen Xer

Jenn Hoffer Communication, Culture, employee experience, Generations, Guest: Jenn Hoffer, Millenial Voice 5 Comments

Things this Millennial was not expecting when I hit the workplace? To have all my pop culture references and movie quote knowledge challenged by my Gen Xer boss – let’s call him Ari Gold to keep him anonymous. Holy cow! Do I have a list of movies that I need to catch up on now! So far, I’ve finally watched Office Space, (I know, I know), Mad Men, The Breakfast Club, Tropic Thunder, and Snatch. Ones that are still on my list? Billions, Moneyball, Boiler Room, Pursuit of Happyness, Jerry Maguire, Wolf of Wall Street, and the list goes onnnnnnnn. Feel free to add to my list in the comments. And apparently there are valuable lessons I can learn in them about office life, relating to people, and how to manage people. I might work for Mr. Miyagi. #WaxOnWaxOff

In the past, I haven’t really paid attention to the stereotypes of each generation. I kind of hate labels – which now that I think about it is probably the most Millennial thing I could say. But as we’ve had more and more clients come to us to facilitate training directly tied to managing each generation – how to communicate, motivate, coach, etc. – I’ve done a lot of research into the topic and see how both managers and employees are struggling to relate and work through issues. I’ve even been able to see how some of the differences between my Gen X boss and me are directly related to our generations.

Here are 3 common areas that Gen X and Millennials experience disconnect. I’ll list the characteristics and how Ari Gold and I overcame them.

  1. Authority/Trust


Gen X View Millennial View
  • Boss has all the experience and knowledge;
  • Access to authority is limited and must be earned
    • But once I’m in, I’m in with a Gen Xer
  • Experience doesn’t mean you have all the answers
  • Can gain knowledge through research on the internet
  • Open door policy with bosses
  • Encouraged to ask questions of authority

When I first started working at Kinetix, I worked for a different boss but supported Ari Gold indirectly as he needed. I didn’t realize at the time his trust was difficult to earn, and there was only a handful of people who had access to him and had his trust. Honestly, I thought he hated me for 6 months, but over time, he started giving me certain tasks to help him. I worked hard to earn his trust, and now, I’m in. He trusts me, shares his knowledge/experience, and provides me autonomy to make decisions, lead projects, and help build out our consulting practice. I know I can bring any question or problem to him, and he’ll help me grow. This is really important to us Millennials.

  1. Communication
Gen X View Millennial View
  • Straight talk – direct
  • Want you to get to the point
  • Use language to paint visual pictures

I’m over here waxing poetic around what’s going on with projects, the work I’ve done, and the questions I have, and Ari Gold’s head is about to explode with all the details I’m giving him. I learned quick to pull that one back and give him the bullet points version in 10 seconds or less. He also had to learn that sometimes I need more information than what he instinctually provides to me.

  1. Motivation & The Why


Gen X View Millennial View
  • Do it my way
  • Forget the rules
  • Innovate
  • Independent
  • But why are we doing this?
  • What’s the purpose in my work and career?

Ari is great at bridging this gap between us. When we first started working together, he would often explain different actions and the why behind them so that I fully understood, and after a while, he would ask me to summarize why I thought what we were doing was important and how it fit in to the overall picture.

I hear all the time people complaining about Millennials’ short tenure at their companies or that they just can’t understand why they do or don’t do things. People in general are complicated, and just like any relationship, we must work to understand each other. I’ve been with Kinetix for 6 years since I graduated college. Want to know why? My Gen X boss.

He put the effort in upfront to know how we could best work together and coached me to do the same instead of brushing me off as some Millennial. He pushes me to see who I could be in my career and how to get there, encourages me, provides me with coaching on the positives and negatives, pushes me outside my comfort zone (a lot), and yes, makes me learn all the best movies and pop culture references that I can handle. I stay because of my boss.

Jenn Hoffer
Jennifer is an HR Consultant for Kinetix business. She loves facilitating the Kinetix BOSS Leadership Development series, goal setting to build out her clients’ performance management process, and helping clients discover their employment brand. Besides being an HR nerd, she loves to travel all over the globe with her husband.

Comments 5

  1. There were a lot of books and articles written about how in the world you could possibly manage these crazy GenX kids in the 90’s that looked and sounded like the material I read about the Millenial workforce today. A lot of these differences are less about GenX, Millenials and Boomers than they are about being in your 20’s & 30’s, 40’s & 50’s or 60+. GenX behaved very similarly when it was in it’s 20’s and 30’s. Man, do I remember complaints about authority being tenure-based rather than merit-based back then. I may have even done some of the complaining. The things you want in life or your career change, your responsibilities look different, and the things you’re willing to tolerate or seek out in exchange for a paycheck are governed by these differences. I’m willing to bet Millenials will be trying to figure out exactly the same challenge with the next wave in 15 years. Bank on it.

    1. Scott – I agree with you. Too many times, I’m seeing managers use the generational differences as a bucket to dump excuses about why someone did or didn’t do something, etc. and why they’re not coaching them on that behavior. “Oh, they’re a Millennial!” (eye roll) vs. “Hey – they’re young, still learning, and I probably did that when I started my career as well.”

      1. Scott, you hit the nail on the head.

        Jenn, I’m on the older side of GenX and I still remember my early career days. I practically could have written your article about my relationship with one of those bosses, along with my own manner and inquiries. I was so inefficient with my communication (get to the point!) and was always trying to figure out the “why.” And while I do try to extend trust to new team members, you do have to earn the right for me to be confident in your work. If I’m not, it causes all sorts of problems.

        Great article!

  2. To Scott’s point, differences are generally more situational than generational: One can be idealistic and “disruptive” when one has nothing to lose. Throw a 30 yr. mortgage, need for retirement savings and a family to feed on the stack and it will change not only what’s important to you, but how you behave, for example.

    As to movies to add to your list, number 1 with a bullet is “Glengarry Glen Ross”, google it, you will understand how important a piece of cultural literacy it is 🙂

  3. This is the best generation piece that I have read thus far anywhere. I will say that your success with the GenXer boss is attributed to your attitude in humility. As I, an Xer, am learning to work with Millennials myself, I see humility as being the key to success. I also need to be humble and willing to learn from the Millennials as well. Willing to learn for the sake of purpose and understanding is important. This is great example of working together.

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