Fundraising Across Generations, Generational Philanthropy, In the development office

Engaging Gen X and Y: Gen X in the office (Through Baby Boomers Eyes)

A couple weeks ago, I spoke to Anne Farrell who is a Baby Boomer in her 60’s and Vice President of Philanthropy for a nonprofit organization.  She is in charge of hiring for her development department. She shared with me:

“There are a whole generation of students who come out of college with high expectations and inspirations.  In nonprofits, you take the lowest job and work your way up.  My first job, I was a secretary at a museum. I was so eager.  I learned everything I could on the job.  A couple years in, a position became available.  The grants writer left and I asked to try it out while still keeping up my administrative duties.  The grants I wrote were funded, the money came in and I was off the phones.”

Anne paid her dues as a young professional and successfully climbed the nonprofit ladder.  She expects that of the younger generations as well.

“The younger generations have unrealistically high aspirations.  They think they can get a job that requires five years of experience with a masters degree and no experience. If I see a resume of someone who is just out of school and they haven’t done any internships or volunteer work, it goes to the “thanks but no thanks” pile.  These individuals expect leadership positions without paying their dues. This problem is particularly acute in the nonprofit world where we are asking them to start at the bottom of the ladder and then make very little money.”

Back to the Palomar Pomerado Health Foundation case study.  Here are the findings and responses of Baby Boomers about working with their younger co-workers, Gen Xers.

Baby Boomer respondents were asked specific questions about working with the younger generation, Generation X. They reported that the benefits of working with staff under the age 45 are:

  • their energy, new ideas that they bring to the office
  • hunger for achievement
  • in some cases, coach-ability
  • understanding of technology, social media and quickness when using it

Baby Boomer respondents reported the challenges of working with the younger generation as:

  • the younger people’s sense of entitlement
  • that they do not work as hard as someone who has worked for a longer period of time
  • there is a lack of willingness to do what it takes to be successful
  • specific limits on what they will do during work hours and non-work hours often not working long hours like those older than their age

According to Working Across Generations, younger generations want older social change leaders to

  • Provide information and advice based on their experience that will help younger leaders be more effective in building future social change
  • Acknowledge younger generations’ leadership, ideas and vision
  • Share power and recognize that new generations will be leading social change in the future

As a Gen Xer, can you share a story of working with a Baby Boomer? What are the benefits and challenges of working with the older generation?

4 thoughts on “Engaging Gen X and Y: Gen X in the office (Through Baby Boomers Eyes)”

  1. This is a great study, Renee! I currently work on my own and am a baby boomer. I love the energy of Gen-Xers, and have found them really ready to roll up their sleeves. The challenge in managing them, in my experience, is to coach and help them without quashing their enthusiasm, to let them make their own mistakes (without correcting every thought and sentence!) but also help them realize that they can learn from those of us who have been at it for a while. I can’t wait for your next installment! P.S. I am a San Diego gal too, from way back.

  2. I completely disagree. Many Gen Xers are now in their 30’s and hold a delicate balance of having learned from the previous generation, while grasping technology and the changing landscape. They are in fact, probably the best people to hire now a days because they still respect the old ways. Gen Y and Millenials are actually the generation that seems to be described here.
    They are a generation that grew up watching untalented reality tv show stars make bank for being drunk and having good hair.

    Gen Xers have been described by many researchers as the underappreciated generation. We do all the work without any of the guidance we need to lead. The Boomers show no interest in grooming us for leadership positions. We feel trapped in many ways between dumb and dumber, with no power to do anything about it.
    This disconnect is going to contribute to the nonprofit leadership crisis as many X’ers take their talent, skills, and know how elsewhere and explore more entrepreneurial ventures.

    1. Lawanda – Thank you for positive feedback about Gen Xers. I agree – this group often has been stuck in the middle and are often under-appreciated and not given the resources and grooming they need to take on positions of leadership.

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