033 – Lee Caraher – Play Nicely With Boomers, Xers & Millennials

Author - Millennials & Management

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Any conversation worth having about Millennials must equally delve into the characteristics and workplace habits of Baby Boomers and Gen Xers.

For at least another 15 years these three generations will share the workplace. The survival of many organisations will hinge on their ability to work out how they will play nicely together – to form positive intergenerational teams.

Lee Caraher is an expert in managing Millennials – mainly because when she first tired she failed miserably. She realised how significant the challenge was to the future of her business so she dug into it. Deeply.

What Lee first discovered was a bunch of bitter Boomers and Xers whinging about Gen Y in an unconstructive way. So she went about doing her own research and creating her own model for intergenerational success.

And she joins me on the podcast to share the story what she discovered and her tips for making intergenerational teams work in your organisation.

Lee Caraher - Boomer Xers and Millennials

Lee Caraher – Millennials & Management

Lessons Learned

Here’s what I took from the episode:

The Generations

Millennials –1980 – 2000

Gen X – 1965-79

Baby boomers – 1946-64


Millennials in the workplace – why should we care?

There is no conversation worth having about Millennials – their quirks, habits and how they play out in the work place – without talking in equal terms about the two generations they work with – Baby Boomers and Gen Xers.

The conversation shouldn’t be about Millennials – but about the ability of these three generations to play nicely together

We still have around 15 more years of these three generations sharing the workplace – a unique time in history, determined by extended working life of baby boomers and the egalitarian nature of many organisations

If you intend to run a successful business into the future you need to have a plan on how these three generations can form positive, productive working relationships

The key to establishing that plan is to understand each of those generations and their inherent characteristics

It’s fascinating to examine the social factors that surrounded each generation as they matured and then look at the behaviour traits and work habits that they led to

And each generation has them – it’s not just the Millennials


Gen X (1965-1979)

  • Many more single children than any other generation
  • Latch key kids – the first generation to largely have two working parents
  • As a result they are more independent contributors than either the Boomers or Millennials
  • Do not need a lot of input from managers or colleagues – when a role of task has been defined they just get on and do it
  • Entered the workforce at a really good time economically – work was easy to come by
  • Careers were interrupted by shrinking economies at 2001 and then at 2008 – so there was a contraction of opportunity and salaries right when they were hitting the prime of their careers
  • The factors (see below) that kept Boomers in the workforce longer means that the timeline has been pushed out for senior roles Xers expected to have…
  • …in the meantime the workplace has been flooded by Gen Yers/Millennials
  • Xers are the most demanding in a workplace – asking for raises, bonuses, special work assignments

Gen X have a choice – they can sit in between the Ys and the Boomers and feel bitter, or they can position themselves as a valuable link between those two huge and very different generations

To seize the moment Xers should:

  • Be ready – what can you do now to ensure you are ready to lead and be relevant in the future? Are you on Twitter, Instagram and Snapchat? Are you relevant? Can you communicate with lots of people?
  • Once the Boomers (finally) retire, they will be too many senior positions for Xers to fill. So be aware now that your peers will be Gen Y/Millennials


Baby Boomers (1946-1964)

  • Part of a numerically large generation
  • The ‘wait my turn generation’
  • They expect to line up for things, to wait their turn – but when they get there they expected to be afforded the respect of their title (especially males)
  • As they were starting to think about retiring, many Boomers lost 30-60% of their retirement funds in the 2008 economic crash – forcing them to stay in the workforce longer


Millennials / Gen Y (1980-2000)

  • To state the bleeding obvious – the first technology natives
  • The interconnected world, information at their finger-tips and all that comes with it has left an incredible imprint on the personality of Millennials and how they conduct themselves at work
  • This gave them the expectation of access to people and information in the workplace
  • Collaboration – crowd sourcing – comes really naturally to Ys
  • Have a reputation (through the eyes of a Boomer or Xer) for having trouble getting started (because they don’t want to be wrong and they want a lot of input)
  • This characteristic might come from the fact that they were the first generation that didn’t keep score at soccer – everyone was a winner and got a trophy
  • And they have a reputation for not finishing off tasks completely
  • Tend to want feedback – lots of it – more than Xers or Boomers
  • They want work that matters
  • Millennials have heard their parents talk about work-life balance all their lives – so they expect it from day 1
  • They were the first generations to call their parent’s friends by their first name – giving the impression that everyone is equal, the world is flat
  • Highly educated – but with massive debt that they didn’t expect to have because their Boomer parents thought they’d be able to pay for it


Intergenerational Teams – How to Play Nicely

For Boomers and Xers :

  • Everyone benefits if a workplace helps Millennials to thrive
  • Every time you add someone to the team understand that the team has changed – so re-set, realign the team dynamics
  • Clear role definition – clarify where a role sits within the collective effort and identify the opportunity for growth
  • Structure the feedback process so that constant feedback is not required
  • Request – please do it my way first and then we’ll meet and we can discuss your ideas on how to improve it


For Millennials

  • Wait your turn – perhaps wait 30 days before you go and meet the CEO or senior manager (so you have something of value to talk about)
  • Do it their way first – and then make suggestions about how to improve it
  • Get a mentor – at least 5-7 years older than you – exchange reading lists so you can share perspectives
  • Ask questions – come with a set of questions. Clarify expectations


Each of the three generations has endured factors that mean they are not living the lives they expected. Failure to adjust to the new reality, the tension between the generations in the workplace, is the key inhibitor to successful intergeneration teams


Find Lee’s book here – Millennials & Management


Find Lee here


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