Working with your Gen X boss – 3 ways to manage up

Chances are your boss is a generation older, likely from Generation X. This generation of Reality Bites has gone from slacker cynics on the proverbial couch to leading teams in open-plan offices. And like each generation before (Boomers) and after (Millennials), they have their own style and their own way of doing things. And if you’re a Millennial or Generation Z, working with your Gen X boss has probably prompted you to ask, “why is she like that?” or “what does she want from me?” or “WTF?” Generation clash is not easy.

So here’s some inside info on how a Gen Xer leads her team.

  1. Gen Xers prefer a fluidity in terms of role and hierarchy. They don’t approach their role as “I’m the boss” but from “I am accountable”. When your Gen X boss exerts authority they are doing so not because they can but because they will have to manage the consequences. Working with your Gen X boss
  2. Gen Xers believe success, status, and promotion are merit based. For Boomers, it was a generation conditioned on seniority. Boomers worked for the same company for decades and the longer you worked the more likely you would be promoted. Gen Xers do not approach their role that way. Consequently, they also don’t believe in getting rewarded just for showing up. They believe you produce, you perform, you achieve, and then you are rewarded.
  3. Gen Xers communicate directly. They tend not to soft peddle. As managers, they don’t see their role as a therapist. During work, they prefer to be straightforward, set expectations, and expect that the work will get done. Gen Xers tend to be critical thinkers and results focused. And they are less likely to offer step by step directions on how to do your job. Additionally, they don’t over-praise when a task is accomplished. They tend to see it as part of your job. On the flip side, if you do get praise, it truly means you’ve done something great. Working with your Gen X boss

If any of the above sounds familiar, then there are some key things you can do make working with your Gen X boss a little easier. This doesn’t mean you have to do all of the bending. There are ways to approach working with your Gen X boss to build a solid working relationship.

  1. Set up a meeting to discuss expectations. This doesn’t mean you go in with a laundry list. It means go into the conversation prepared. Know what your roles and responsibilities are and what you need to help you be successful. For example, if you’re responsible for managing your company’s website content, go into the meeting with things you will work on autonomously and items you will need support from your manager on. Working with your Gen X boss
  2. Set up check-ins. Meet with your manager one on one, once a week. Be proactive. Send them an agenda to discuss projects with wins and challenges. Talk about what is working and what you need support with. Add one last item on the agenda and ask your manager to review one thing you are doing well and one thing you can do better. This will allow your manager to celebrate your wins and contribute to your growth in a professional context.
  3. Blend your work style to include fun and professionalism. Take your cues from your manager to understand when there are times where you need to sit in a meeting and listen and learn. But when you’re not in hierarchical meetings, introduce levity and fun into the environment. Celebrate little wins.

Working with your Gen X boss

We spend at least eight hours each day with the people we work with. Working with your Gen X boss doesn’t always have to be frustrating. You may have more in common with them than you think.

Do you have any tips or experiences on how to manage up? Or deal with your Gen X boss? 

Namrata PatelBy Namrata Patel
Namrata is fascinated by how we live through the lens of culture and technology. She grew up in an traditional Gujarati house in a northern New Jersey suburb and since then has lived in large cities (Boston, New York, London) and small towns (Spokane, Glamssboro, Lake Placid). She loves blogging about technology, social media, dual-culturalism, travel, food, and living life as a journey vs. a path.


Images via GIPHY and NBC

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