Generational Mythology / Boomers & Millennials

“I'm not trying to 'cause a b-big s-s-sensation just talkin' 'bout my g-g-generation”

It had been on my mind for some time to do our radio show on the topic of on some of the stereotypes that may exist between the Baby Boomers (My Generation) and Generation Y - Millennials. Our Office Manager and a Millennial at Voltage Leadership, Diane Nguyen, was our gracious guest on the radio program to drill down on some of the “mythology” between these two groups.

Although there is some slight variance of thought on this, we will define Boomers as those born between 1946 – 1964 and Millennials being defined here as born between 1981 – 2000.

What do both groups have in common?

1.      Both want to be heard and respected

2.      Both want to make a difference in the world around them

3.      Both see themselves as “rebels” and dislike stereotypes about them

What are some tips for Boomer employees of Millennial managers?

1.      Don’t expect face to face meetings to last as long as you think “customary”

2.      Don’t assume ALL emails or text messages are urgent

3.      Don’t think you need to be “seen in the office” all the time

4.      Don’t expect Millennial managers to accept, “This is the way we’ve always done it

5.      Don’t expect the Millennial boss to treat you any differently than “younger” employees

How can we work together towards maximizing mutual respect and understanding?

1.      Make the effort to learn each other’s language, (and they are at times very different)

2.      Form your own conclusion based on experience vs assumptions or “noise”

3.      Respect each other’s competencies vs titles or positions

So, for all of you Boomers out there with FOMO, understand YOLO, emoji.
For a deeper dive into this topic, click this link to listen to our VoltCast Radio Show “Millennial Mythology


It’s summer. It’s that time of the year for harmonic convergence known as “summer vacation.” School is out. Days are long. Kids are bouncing off the walls with excitement as they anticipate summer fun on their family vacations.  Queue up Chevy Chase and Lindsay Buckingham, “Holiday Road”!!!!

Remember when you were those kids bouncing off the walls? Where did you go and what did do? I sure do. We spent weeks in the summer at a place called Sylvan Beach. Sylvan Beach is on the eastern shore of Oneida Lake in upstate New York. It was home to a turn of the century amusement and theme park. It had all the essentials: the “Hammer”, the “Tilt-a-Hurl”, Haunted House, Wild Mouse, “Barrel of Fun”, Bumper cars, the “Mother of All Carousels” and yes “Skee Ball”. We would take our boat (the orange “tri-hull”) about 30 miles across the lake and run it right up onto the beach next to the vacation cabins we stayed in. I can still smell the fires on beach!

But I digress. Now, fast forward to our present-day world. The challenge is to “Manage Out!” This means planning what we will NOT do on our summer vacation.  At Voltage Leadership, we apply a management tool called “the 5 Gears” (by Jeremie Kubicek and Steve Cockram) for those who really need to be present when there doesn’t seem to be enough time. One of those 5 gears is First Gear. First Gear is defined as 100% completely unplugged. This means no “smart” phones, PC’s or internet period. Is that realistic I today’s world?

Only you can answer that. Here are some tips and tools to help you try to achieve First Gear.

·       Planning - Planning builds anticipation and anticipation builds excitement. Plan your vacations well and revel in thinking about what you’ll do. No bigger bummer than a vacation that fails to deliver.

·       Domestic Outsourcing - Housekeeping and childcare are inevitable if you’ve got little ones. Build in some adults only downtime. Bring along a best friend who can be a built-in babysitter. They will become family.

·       To Work or Not to Work -That IS the question. How much control do you have over the situation?  Are you taking calls because your boss is making you? If you must connect, set limits on when and what you will do. For example, working a half an hour each morning before the rest of your family wakes up may be a good compromise.

·       Email Does Not Get its Own Lounge Chair on Your Vacation. Agree upon and communicate beforehand your out of office accessibility before you leave the office. This includes your boss or any other key contacts. Is it a 15-min check in once in the AM every other day? Is that too much?

·       Stop Thinking that the World Revolves Around You - It can make you feel like you are trapped in a cage with lots of pressure. Remember, for this brief period of time, your Family revolves around you. Name a delegate for you before you leave that can handle things in your absence. This not only helps you but can be a development opportunity for them.

·       Have Some Fun – Do you remember how?

For a deeper dive on tips to achieve First Gear while on vacation, check out this episode of the VoltCast radio show, Illuminating Leadership.


I was recently talking with some close friends at dinner about their experiences with what actually happened behind their manager’s closed door.  The answers were varied, if not surprising, and will have an impact on engagement, productivity and retention.

One person indicated that her best managers always had office hours, reminiscent of her college days.  She felt that she always knew that she would be heard at some predictable point and could escalate urgent matters as needed.  Her boss was an active partner in managing up and engagement.  She felt validated.

Another person lamented the lack of predicable interaction with his boss.  His experience was quite different.  Not only did he feel invalidated, at times he felt almost invisible.  This lack of predictable interaction made it challenging to manage up, to read his boss, and to know what and when to escalate.

So, what should happen behind the Manager’s closed door and when?

We advocate for Well-Run 1:1 Meetings:  15- 30 minutes in duration and held at least once a month, (weekly for new hires.)  By well-run, we mean meaningful interaction with somebody who is actively present and actively participating.  This means no phone, no computer, no texting, and no interruptions.  Done well, this builds a trust bridge for great working relationships.  Here is the model used with many of our clients.

1:1 meetings (30 min max) once a month (and ad-hoc as needed).  The main purpose is to Listen, Understand and Exchange Information about:

1.      Assignments / Work-load Balance -  what’s working well, what’s not, distractions

2.      Developmental Plans / Activities / Training / Tools - Internal Customers, Continuing Education Certifications / Degrees, Shadowing, Cross Training, Networking, Tools / Technology needed

3.      Recognition / Coaching / Staff Feedback- Shared Successes, Constructive Thought Partnering

4.      Feedback for Leader - Things leaders may not see (blind spot) or need help on

5.      Other Satisfiers / Dis-satisfiers – Job enrichment ideas, ergonomics, environmental, etc

6.      Continuous Improvement / Innovation– As you drill into new /changed responsibilities

When done with authenticity, Well-Run 1:1 Meetings set up the foundation for performance expectations and directly address any issues in the employee’s world.  This, in turn, makes the performance review almost an afterthought, because you both have already sought out what really matters.

Please be on the look-out for other tools in future blogs as we employ Behind the Manager’s Closed Door to address specific things like;  coaching / mentoring skill development, 1:1 for recognition, 1:1 for lack of performance, 1:1 for formal discipline, and 1:1 for removing drama.




When I first began working, White Out correction fluid was ubiquitous in offices everywhere.  It was used to cover errors so that corrections could be typed over them.  While White Out is no longer a workplace staple, it has not entirely disappeared.  I was reminded of White Out when I ran into a friend of mine after work recently.  She had an incredulous look on her face that said, “Do I have a story for you!”

That very day, as she handled client calls and emails, managed projects and priorities, she received this memo from “management”.

“We are locking up the White Out.  If you have any White Out in your desk, you must bring it to your supervisor.  They will keep it in a locked cabinet and only give it out upon request for specific, authorized changes. It then must be returned promptly.”

Whatever mistake lead to the White Out Lock Up one thing is certain: the response is all wrong.  Locking up the White Out for an entire office as a solution to an over-correction error, whether that was made by many or by only a few of the team, simply served to make the staff feel like children.  My friend was demoralized.  It seemed to her to be both absurd and shaming all at once.

So what went wrong?

Clearly, someone made a mistake, a mistake that no other remedy could be thought of except to consume the time and talent of the supervisors by making them responsible for checking in and out the White Out.

My friend observed, “Someone is using White Out when they shouldn’t and we are all paying for it.”


It is always true that, in some way, when training is needed to improve performance, everyone pays.  It costs to take time to train someone to do a job to specific standards, just as it costs to have sub-par performance, and as it costs to hire a new team member when we have to replace someone.  Training costs.

The challenge for leaders is to spend their time and talents wisely.

When we have a training issue, a flaw in a process or performance, it is often easier to Lock Up the White Out or, better yet, do it ourselves rather than take the time and spend the effort training someone to do their work accurately.  Yes, it is true, training takes time.  It is an investment; an investment well worth the return.

Is there a performance issue you have been avoiding?  Is there someone who needs extra time and attention to learn to get it right?  Is there someone who needs to clearly understand the expectations and know the consequences of their actions so they can work more effectively?

Address this issue now:

·       Take the time to communicate your expectations clearly. 

·       Sit down with someone and show them how you’d like it done.

·       Ask them to repeat back to you what your expectations are and the process by which they can achieve those expectations.

When we are direct and clear in our instructions and when we ask for those expectations to be repeated back to us, we discover where the misunderstandings begin.  We can correct our people problems without Locking Up the White Out.