Q: I'm a baby boomer supervisor in a government agency. I have a stereotypical millennial staffer whose work is excellent. I'm as flexible as I can be with her schedule under our agency rules, give her challenging assignments, and offer lots of positive feedback. But she wants still more freedom to set her own agenda. The problem is, my rigid baby boomer boss thinks I'm setting a bad precedent with the rest of the staff by "caving in" to her "demands." How can I encourage my boss to accept the millennial work style before I lose this valued employee?
A: By "stereotypical millennial," I assume you mean that "Millie" thrives on positive reinforcement, expects flexibility and opportunity, is not intimidated by hierarchy, and won't linger in an unsatisfactory situation. Or, in your boss's view, she's a needy, entitled upstart with no work ethic, respect for authority or sense of loyalty.
As a member of the sandwich generation (a cheesy ham, and wry), this Gen Xer will try to speak to both Boomers and Boomerangs without sounding like a bitter middle child.
Smart workplaces adapt to attract and retain the best workers. Requests that initially seem over-the-top — flex time, job sharing, telecommuting — often end up becoming common perks. It's great that you're willing to indulge Millie's needs, — happy workers are hard workers — provided you're willing to give her co-workers the same consideration.
And Millie would be wise to realize that adaptability goes both ways. Every job has its "I went to college for this?" scut work; every new worker faces a learning curve that can be mastered only with time, patience and a willingness to accept honest critiques.