Communicating and Working With the “Older” Generation

August 15, 2016

Below are tips from a Generation X partner with baby boomer tendencies for millennials who work with baby boomers. Many (unfair) stereotypes have been written about millennials and how to “deal” with them. From the standpoint of someone between the millennial and baby boomer generations, the stereotypes are just that. The main issue is how the two generations communicate. These tips are aimed at communicating and working effectively with baby boomer generation partners.

  1. Know your audience. It is important to know who you are communicating with and how he or she prefers to communicate. Do they prefer phone calls, emails, memos, or in-person meetings? Do not assume that because you like communicating only by email that the person you are working with does as well. Also take time to learn their communication pet peeves.
  1. Find out expectations in advance. You want us to value your time, but you must value ours as well. If there is an ultimate deadline for a project or a filing, find out how much time in advance your partner wants to see a finished product. If a court deadline is Monday, don’t give it to your partner on Friday night, forcing them to work later or over the weekend. That is not respecting your partner’s time.
  1. Know your role. Millennials are stereotyped as being team oriented. When you are brought into a case or on an assignment that is what we expect—that you engage as a team member. Get involved. Think ahead. Ask questions. Be a valued member of the team.
  1. Be responsible for your career. You want to succeed, and we want you to succeed, but it is up to you to make it happen. Many of us are still developing our careers, bringing in business and enhancing our legal skills. We can’t coddle you (another stereotype of millennials). Your partners want to help you, but they will not make your career. You need to take an active role in your career development.
  1. Ask for help. Find a “casual” mentor who knows the personalities, tendencies and particularities of the people with whom you work. Use that information to improve your communication skills and to develop relationships with colleagues.
  1. Don’t be afraid to be heard. You’re a valued member of the team and we want to hear your ideas. The older we get, the more we realize that we don’t know everything. Young lawyers often bring a new perspective. Share your ideas. Do not be afraid to speak up.
  1. Slow down. Millennials have been stereotyped as needing “instant gratification.” If that is indeed true, it will be difficult to find in the legal industry. Take your time; it’s is a long career. Learn the law, learn from your colleagues, and learn who you are as a lawyer. Senior partners want to see you become good lawyers; so we will give you as much as we think and know you can handle.
  1. Ask for feedback. If you want feedback or evaluations, ask for it. We know how important this is for your career development, but the reality is that we may sometimes forget that. We also must play the role of manager and sometimes that gets overlooked (remember how we’re practicing law, developing a book of business, and growing our careers). That does not mean that we won’t make time, or that we’re not interested (actually, we want you to succeed, just as much as you do). But, it’s up to you to ask us for that time. As I said, you make your career—we don’t.                                                       BY AMY DRUSHAL
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