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Your Boss is a Baby Boomer

Susan's picture

There are a few notable milestones that suggest a woman is not quite as young, cool, or hip as she used to be. Reading Ladies’ Home Journal is among the most legendary of these milestones.

It’s perhaps by no coincidence then that I picked up the May issue of Ladies’ Home Journal while I was waiting at the dentist office last week. With my 45th birthday just days away, it seems completely fitting that I’d be reading what I always considered to be my mother’s magazine.

One particular article jumped out at me because I’d recently presented to a group of young, talented graduate students who were embarking on their first professional careers. Their youthful perspective about the workplace was still fresh on my mind.

According to the article, there are now 4 distinct generations making up the workforce. They include:

  • Baby Boomers (born 1946 to 1964), range in age from 45 to 63 years old. They comprise 40% of today’s workforce.
  • Generation X (born 1965 to 1980), range in age from 29 to 44 years old. They comprise 36% of today’s workforce.
  • Millenials - aka Generation Y (born 1981 to 2000), range in age from 9 to 28 years old. They comprise 16% of the workforce, and the number is growing steadily.
  • Matures - aka The Silent Generation (born from 1922 to 1945) are 64 and older. They comprise 8% of the workforce, and the number is steadily declining.

As the article suggests, multi-generational workplaces introduce both challenges and opportunities. I’m personally excited to see what impact the Generation X and Millenials will have on the way Baby Boomers conceptualize and execute work in the future. I’m also curious to see how the definitions of success and sanity will evolve as these younger generations take over the top positions of power and influence in corporate America.

As it stands today, the top leadership positions are still monopolized by the Baby Boomers. They set the policies, procedures and expectations in the office. The Baby Boomers’ philosophy presides over the corporate culture.

A quick Google search informed me that the average age of executive women is 47 years old and the average age of executive men is 52. This means that most executives are Baby Boomers. As such, there’s a very good chance that your boss is a baby boomer too.

In my experience, Baby Boomer bosses expect the following:

  1. Employees will have respect and deference for the people above them on the organizational chart.
  2. Employees will be in the office Monday through Friday (at a minimum).
  3. Employees will willingly work long hours to impress their bosses, do their jobs well, and set themselves apart from the pack.
  4. Employees will demonstrate ambition by embracing whatever new opportunities and new responsibilities are made available to them.
  5. Employees will dress professionally at work.
  6. Employees will act with honesty and integrity in all they do.

I fully recognize that not all Baby Boomers subscribe to this list of expectations, but many of them do. I suggest you talk with your own boss about how his or her expectations support or contradict the expectations outlined above.

I also realize that the Baby Boomers’ expectations may seem ridiculously outdated to the Gen X’ers and Millenials who feel very comfortable working remotely from coffee shops on their Blackberries. The younger generations see nothing wrong with wearing well-worn blue jeans that transition seamlessly from the office to a nightclub and back to the office again. They can’t imagine why anyone cares about where they work or what they wear to work. But the Baby Boomers do care.

I’m not here to justify or defend the Baby Boomer generation. My goal is to inform the up-and-coming women leaders about these expectations. Information is power. By gaining information about what a Baby Boomer boss expects, women can make more educated choices about how they wish to conduct themselves in a multi-generational workplace.

For more information on this topic and others, visit Ladies’ Home Journal at Search "Working Women" and you'll be pleasantly surprised. It’s not just your mother’s magazine any more.