In a recent book by futurist John Krubski, Who Dances Naked First,
Gets to Lead ... , the author says that we're living in a revolutionary
era in which five generations are coexisting simultaneously for the
first time ever.
While this may be fun at PTA meetings where parents of 7-year-olds range
from 20-something to 50-something, it is increasingly a challenge in
agency life where the values, attitudes and culture of different
generational cohorts need to 'blend.'
Back in the old days, there were perhaps two generational cohorts
working together: 'matures' and 'boomers.' Each had a comfort level with
the chain of command, so life was easy. Seniors gave the orders, juniors
That was then. But today, within the same office, work means very
different things for four generations - Matures: an obligation; Boomers:
an adventure; Xers: a challenge; and GenY: a growth experience.
'Followership' now takes on different forms across generations. Boomers
followed their bosses because they had to; Xers make their bosses earn
It is clear that each of these cohorts has a separate gestalt which,
without some sensitivity training, can impact the effectiveness of the
team. The outcome can be miscommunication and tension - ultimately
leading to an erosion of client trust and new business turndowns.
So how can we all get along, particularly in agency life where account
teams need to communicate with one cultural voice?
- Recognize that the team needs every generation. Welcome and accept
advantages of different skills and viewpoints. Value knowledge -
whichever cohort has it - and match the most appropriate work with the
player who will handle it best and enjoy it the most.
- Empathize. Immerse yourself in the other cohorts' interests or
Xers and GenY appreciate Boomers who know the song Who Let the Dogs Out,
just as Matures and Boomers are fascinated by Xers who know Ruby
- Matures and Boomers should avoid phrases like 'because that is the way
it's always been done.' Try 'would it make sense if' to encourage
In an age of the enlightened client, more emphasis is being put on the
'team purchase' versus agency reputation or a creative proposal. So the
seamless integration of generations within the agency can provide
differentiation and success.
Mike Greece (Boomer) and Malkie Bernheim (Xer) are managing director and
VP, respectively, of Padilla Speer Beardsley's New York office. The
article is a co-generational collaboration.