Dear Millenial: Here is how to work for a Gen X boss

gen x boss

I’m a Gen-Xer through and through. I am also a latch-key kid. A child of divorce. The oldest. All of these things contributed to my becoming someone who is considered a change agent; someone who can adapt. It was natural that I end up in digital right? I mean really – rules? Confinements? Please.

This also has made me “a cool boss”. I get that you want to and CAN work from home. Or Hawaii or Vegas. I know that you are working at 2am so why in the world would I “admonish you” for showing up on email at 10 and not 8:30? (notice I said on email and not IN THE OFFICE).  As long as you remembered to bring your laptop to Vegas you’re all good.

I get that desks and cubes and such are the butt of every joke and want to provide an open workspace. One that encourages communication, creativity, transparency. Our Social People “space” is a loft – not an office building full of hallways of whispered conversations. And it is referred to as a “space” – it isn’t the “office”. You do not HAVE to be there. Its a place where when everyone needs to come together or we have clients or brainstorming sessions…we have a space. Heck it even doubles as a hotel for our out of town clients and colleagues!

But what I learned this week….what I learned is that my latch-key kid ways, welllll they don’t work well with the 20 somethings on our team. These people are smart, creative, educated – we connect on many levels that they appreciate as being part of boutique and disruptive agency rather than going into a big agency. They like being where there is no guy in his late 50s making 3 million a year down the hall that still doesn’t know how to use facebook. I am not that guy. Or Gal. And frankly I don’t ever plan to be.

BUT – I need to get a little more of that guy in me with certain things because these kids? Man – they are spread THIN! They have no clue how to prioritize. They are so used to doing everything at once – and doing so many things well; that the pressures and demands of delivering real actual value is a challenge for them to understand. “It’s all cool”. Well guess what – it’s not all cool. We have turned the world into this giant popularity contest – and good work, thorough work, is not what is important to them. It’s how cool they look on twitter. Who has the best profile shots, the most followers, who is showing off their wonderful and exciting life in the biggest and brightest way.  When I built one of the first successful online artist centric communities for Nelly, (1mm users baby in 1999!) what we have now is NOT what I imagined “community” to be. I hate popularity contests. Haaaaate. I’m an introvert and thanks to Susan Cain I am now going to be damn proud of it.

But back to the “kids”. What these programmed-to-be-extrovert kids forget?  THE WORLD IS WATCHING.

I’m watching. Our clients are watching. Our potential clients are watching. So this month I had to have a sit down with a 26 year old guy on our team. Why? Because his peers and his work were being affected by his “digital nativeness.” So here are the tips I gave him.

1. Reduce the Swagger

Dude. Nobody needs to know that you were out at some club with some DJ until 2am when we all know that we have a deadline for our biggest client due the next day. We get that 4square is a phenom and we are recommending check-ins and on-premise engagement opps to our clients so people WILL check in on 4square but nobody needs to see it when we are worried that you are on the verge of missing the deadline.

2. Everybody is an Influencer

You, the person next to you, the 4 of your peers on your team. Yes you all have thousands of people that you are connected to and each of you knows the coolest in your own worlds. Play nice. Don’t try and one-up each other. Work it out – and if you can’t? Come complain. Don’t throw a hissy that your colleague is giving you attitude when you have just as much attitude. We don’t have time. Someone is going to be the better person for a part of a project – not everything is the competitive sports that you participated in your entire life while your parents were slaving away at work so that you could have every new Apple product as it was released. Deal with it. The office is not the back seat of a station wagon. Stop fighting for credit. You will get it when it is due.


We know that you have been communicating in public your whole lives. (also refer to #1) Twitter is not the place to have an argument, flirt, sext or post party pictures.  This is why that guy at the end of the hall doesn’t think he has to go on Twitter or Facebook. Your shenanigans are making it hard for us to get more budget. You look like an idiot. Stop. We aren’t going to give you a raise if you keep doing it. And I think that you are home working on the deadline we have and you are making me hyperventilate that the more party pics you post the less powerpoint there will be at 2pm tomorrow. PartyPics do not equal PowerPoint. STOP!


Unlike your parents that were working and unavailable – we are available – it is our job to be available to you while working.  We may not seem like it because we are very used to being off on our own and “doing our own thing”. We weren’t as lucky as you where we played on 3 soccer teams and had multiplayer XBox. We only had one team in intramurals til 5 and 2 player Atari. Therefore we spent alot of time alone. On the phone. In our bedrooms. HOURS AND HOURS on the phone. Now don’t get me wrong at this point – I have to agree with you. I hate the phone. It wastes time. BUT when things are going wrong or you need help PICK UP THE PHONE. Even though I can see every tweet I can’t read your mind about the presentation that’s due when you are tweeting about how Bon Iver didn’t deserve the Grammy. It’s okay that you don’t know what to do. You’re not going to get in trouble. You already made it through college with a 3.9 and are able to code, draw, write, film and have seen more media today than your great-grandmother saw in her lifetime. You’re fine. It’s okay to say I don’t know, help me.

Thanks for reading. I hope this helps you.

I for one love you way more than I love the guy down the hall; he’s the guy that didn’t think anyone would ever watch a video on their computer let alone the phone, remember? I can’t even believe he is still in the building sometimes! I get you….but he thinks you are INSANE.

But don’t let all that bad press scare you. I’m counting on you.

The guy down the hall is going to crash the Social Security system and I’m expecting a senior citizen version of Couchsurfing/AirBnB to come out from one of your genius heads when you hit 45 and you start to worry about where the hell your parents will get money to pay the medical bills for their robotic eye.

peace out.