“The best predictor of whether people will succeed at work is the competence of their boss, regardless of generation,” said Melissa Nightingale, co-founder of Raw Signal Group, a management training firm. “That boss is on the hook for their onboarding, their feedback, their career growth and more. If the boss can’t do those things, they’re screwed.”
However, when old bosses leave and new ones arrive, there are opportunities for rethinking. Workers who benefit from leaving the office early for school pickup can say so. Workers who want more feedback can request it. It’s a chance to look at how things have always been done and ask: Why?
“A lot of experts make it sound like you’re putting people in boxes based on their year of birth, but what we want people to understand is that generations are clues, not a box,” said Jason Dorsey, a workplace researcher. “Just because you’re born in a certain year, doesn’t mean anyone knows everything about you.”
Generations also change as they grow up. For years, Gen X seemed defined by a nagging sense of purposelessness. As Winona Ryder’s character says in “Reality Bites”: “I’m really going to be something by the time I’m 23.” The anxiety, for many, fades away. Indicate a sense of workplace confidence; they became something.
Twilla Brooks, 48, recalled that when she started her career as an assistant buyer for Robinsons-May, a former department store chain, she had to be in the office before her boss arrived and stay until her boss left. She raced through Los Angeles traffic before 8 a.m., petrified of leaving her manager, because in her words, “That’s what you had to do to make it.”
Last year, Ms. Brooks left an executive role at Walmart to start her own marketing company. Now, without an office, she decides where and when to work. “There’s a lot more flexibility in my schedule,” she said. “Because it’s my schedule.”