November 20, 2018

Baby Boomers

Has Senior Leadership Resorted to Parenting in the Workplace?

By the time you read this, Monday will be one foot in the bag for most of you. So not to hurt your already-tuned-out minds with, I wanted to report on something that probably comes as no shocker to you: the difference in working attitudes between generations continues to cause grief for company leadership across the country.

The full FINS article can be found here, but here’s the bit I want to discuss:

Another issue that cropped up in the survey is the subtle generational shift evidenced by more Gen Y’ers infiltrating the accounting pool. The survey concludes that members of a younger workforce have different expectations about their careers, insofar as they’re more focused on work-life balance and not bound to a “work is all I am” mantra. When asked about reasons for voluntary turnover, 45% of respondents said a poor work/life balance, including excessive hours, was responsible.

The other 65% 55% listed “working for cranky old farts that have no concept of a balanced life” as the reason for looking for a new job. But really, there is obviously a clash in working styles and expectations between the different generations.

Older generations worked their way through school, and many were the first in their families to attend college. This work ethic carried over into the workforce, as Baby Boomers competed against one another for everything; jobs, money, social and economic status, etc. Boomers were raised on the concept of “you eat what you kill.” Simply put, they were a generation pushed and pushed and pushed to work and work and work; by parents, peers, and society alike.

Fast forward to the Generation Y and Millenials that are currently entering the workforce. The large “complaints” of senior leadership about the new waves of workers are the necessary changes that must be made – flexible work arrangements, work/life balance initiatives, community outreach programs, etc. All of these HR-friendly programs have one thing in common – they cost time and money. Upper management and partners of the accounting firms complain frequently (even here in the comments) that the Y’s and Me’s are a lazier, more high maintenance group of professionals.

Newsflash, Baby Boomers: you’re responsible for this. This was to be expected after years of an upbringing centered around access to things, supply of stuff, and promises of you can do whatever you want to do. Baby Boomers saw an advancement in education and the quality of professional training required in the workplace. Today’s generations are seeing another advancement; this one being the quality of the workplace.

But I digress. Perhaps we should all agree to disagree on the continued generational differences and focus on these lines from the FINS article:

The survey found that praise and attention from managers can have a more positive effect than cash bonuses and increase in base pay, for example. To that end, CFOs are focusing more on gold stars and less on pay stubs.

Sounds like parenting, doesn’t it?

A Wake-up Call for All Gen X Accountants

A potential client of mine was presenting its case to my firm a while back. The presenting team consisted of senior leadership, management, and staff members; all of which were professional and polished in their demeanor.

The presentation was divvied up between members, with much of the discussion being led by the management and staff. When it came time for the closer – the make or break – a fresh-out-of-college kid stood up and delivered one of the best deal closers I’ve ever experienced.

At the conclusion of the meeting I took a moment to catch up with the young professional who delivered the knock-out. I asked, “Why were you the teammate to deliver the final pitch?”

“Easy,” she responded, “I volunteered to do it, and no one objected.”


Generation X’ers — those of you born in the 60’s and 70’s — are in a tough position, and it’s you that I’d like to address today. Above you are the Baby Boomers; sucking the well and its resources dry for every last drop. Sure, they’re holding on too long but who is kicking them out? Who is applying the professional pressure for them to move on? Look down.

Below you (but quickly rising) is the Future – Generations Millenial and Y (MY, for short) are ready, willing and capable of busting through the corporate door and crossing the finish line ahead of you. They multitask, network, and socialize better than ever thought was possible. Their collegiate education went beyond debits and credits – group projects, public speaking tasks, and teamwork were the norm. And they’re connected!

They are maturing in a digital age that makes them comfortable with who they are. They are “friends” with a 1,000+, sharing photos, comments, and personal tidbits about their daily lives; something Generation X is used to sharing with buddies over beers or at home with the family. Most significantly, Gen’s MY are opportunistic. Their college and job applications were filled with Habitat trips in Guam, hospital philanthropies, and more part-time, non-paid work than you can imagine. Why? Because not only do they care about traveling the extra mile – they see the personal gain that comes with it. This is exactly why the 20-something year old staff member delivered the closing speech to my firm.

The problem is not whether the staff member had the right or the talent to be trusted with the responsibility. The question is – why didn’t one of the three senior managers step up? They obviously didn’t see the opportunity in front of them.

Let this simmer over the weekend, Gen X’ers. Next week I’ll be addressing what you can do to speak up and be seen from valley between the Boomers and Gens MY; otherwise known as where you currently sit.