Coaching baby boomers to work with gen Y

“Khun Kriengsak, I liked your column ‘Can Gen Y and Baby Boomers Work Together?’ in the Bangkok Post,” Somporn tells me. “I distributed it to all my people. Can you coach me on how to coach Generation Y?”

“Certainly, Khun Somporn. Tell me more about your situation.”

“I have 10 direct reports. Seven of them are the same generation as me _ baby boomers. I’m OK with this group. I have a challenge with the other three Gen Y members who are working on a new social media marketing project. They’re smart, quick and excellent with technology, but I find they’re impolite.”

“Khun Somporn, what do you mean?”

“For example, they don’t want to listen to me about how to do things. Once they’re clear about the goal, they jump to do the work in their own way. When I coach them they always have a different point of view. They show disagreement with me. Sometimes I’m frustrated, because it appears they possess too much ego.

“Another point is lack of gratitude. They always come up with new initiatives with a huge financial investment. It takes me a lot of effort to sell these ideas to the board. Once I get the funds for them, they don’t express any gratitude. Thinking back to my early days when I was the same age as they are, I kept thanking my boss if he went the extra mile for me. This generation seems to take it for granted without much of gratefulness.”

“Khun Somporn, would you please repeat the last few sentences?”

“Which ones, Coach?”

“Start with ‘Thinking back to my early days …”‘

“Oh, thinking back to my early days … aha, now I see!” he exclaims as he has a Eureka! moment.

“What, Khun Somporn?”

“I just realised I used my own values and standards from 20 years ago to judge this younger generation. I shouldn’t do that, should I?”

“You got it, Khun Somporn.”

“What should I do next?”

“Before moving on, let’s try to understand the generation gap first. Your examples demonstrated some of your own values and beliefs regarding how to treat a boss. Can you summarise those values again?”

“I judged them based on my values of respect for seniority, accommodating the boss and gratitude.”

“That’s good.”

“Khun Somporn, I remember listening to an audio book, High Performance Collaboration: The 10 Natural Laws by Mickey Connolly and Richard Rianshek. It mentions a definition of ‘intelligent’. The origin of this word came from Latin meaning ‘to choose between’. The book elaborates that to listen intelligently means to be able to see more than one perspective, then to choose one that explain the other person’s behaviour best.

“In this case, can you see another possibility that why these Gen Y people behave the way they do?”

“They probably thought my way may have worked in the past but maybe not now. Or they probably thought we have different approaches to work. My way and their way may not be the same, but both ways should be able to achieve the goal.

“They show disagreement with me because they respect me and believe I’ll be open to their opinion.

“Finally, they think it’s my duty to obtain resources for them. Hence, they don’t owe me anything. Why do they have to bother to show me gratitude?”

“Khun Somporn, your interpretation of these behaviours seems logical to me.”

“Thank you, Coach. Hence, this is no big deal. I should not take it personally by imposing my values on their behaviour.”

“Khun Somporn, now what’s next?”

“I have to remind myself of this when I interact with them.”

“That’s good. But your values have been with you for so many years. It’s unlikely you’d be able to suppress them all the time. You would probably be able to control your thoughts under normal circumstances, but sometimes, in the heat of the moment, you probably go on autopilot. Your values and beliefs are your comfort zone. You could easily slip back to your old values.”

“What should I do?”

“I’d like to offer you some tips to help you to stay in the ‘Now’. In Practising the Power of Now, Eckhart Tolle wrote, ‘The moment you realise you are not present, you are present.’ So I remind myself as much as possible when I listen to anyone by asking myself: Where is my mind now _ in the past, the present or the future?

“Here’s another idea you can try: before I deal with someone who has different values from mine, I imagine there’s a video camera taping me. Then I ask myself what do my face and body language look like? This helps me to gain more self-awareness.

“Finally, I like this quotation from Rege Ludwig, a great international polo instructor. I asked him why he’s so good at listening. He said: ‘I listen attentively because there are many things I don’t know.”‘