Who’s Your Daddy?

Blog, Thinkwell

Today a Baby Boomer client asked me if it would be considered poor management to use parenting skills with their Millennial employees? Ok, so I’m guessing that some who are reading this are thinking “NO! That’s unprofessional, ridiculous, and would not fly where I work. Never in a million years would I treat anyone on my team as I do my same-aged kids. They are not my kids; they are my employees, staff and co-workers” Some of you are thinking, “WOW! I do that all the time! I just can’t help myself, is there something wrong with that?”

As a coach and trainer specializing in generational differences and shifting work paradigms to improve communication, engagement and productivity, this conversation compelled me to consider the idea that what mangers bring from their parenting repertoire may support them in working with their millennial staff. It also had me wondering what the impact might be on a team if parenting style was overwhelmingly present in a manager.

Let’s face it, once a parent…always a parent, and trying to extricate your parent self from your manager self is almost impossible. Something as significant as raising a child is forever incorporated into your life experience and not something you can just magically remove. One can argue that there are pros and cons to allowing parenting to seep into your management style. Being a parent comes with a host of practiced and proven techniques that have served you for many years. These strategies have been analyzed and honed, in some cases for two to three decades. We have collected more data on this subject than the gallop organization has collected on breakfast cereal preferences. We believe we know what works with Millennials because we have raised our very own. All of this information provides all we need to know about what works and what does not with this particular age group. Not always. The good news is that with managing people, experience counts. The bad news is if we think we know based upon our past experience we are not open to the possibility that there may be a better way. This is a slippery slope that may lead to dysfunctional relationships, disengaged employees, dissatisfied leadership, and generally disappointing results.

Let’s begin with some facts: According to a Labor Department Statistics report there are approximately 55 million people ages 16 to 34 in the workforce this year or in other words, those born between 1981 and 1999, aka Millennial. That’s about 35% of the workforce. There are approximately 100 million people between the ages of 35 and 69 (Generation X and Baby Boomers). Chances are many of them are parents to Millennial offspring. So if you are a Baby Boomer or on the older side of Generation X you are probably leading a team that includes some or many Millennial aged empoyees.


As a centerpiece of my work as a coach and trainer I support people in gaining awareness and shifting their frame of reference in order to create new perspectives, actions, and structure to reach desired goals. Seeing your inner mommy or daddy in real time allows you to decide for yourself if there is a better more constructive approach in the workplace (i.e. leader, mentor, manager or mom!)

So you ask, how do I know which hat I am choosing?

To start, write the following questions on a piece of paper and jot down your answers.

What do I expect from each individual on my team?

What do I think I know about each member on my team? How does this knowing inform my communication style, motivation technique, mentoring method, approach to providing feedback?

How do I take care of my team? (List ways you assist in their growth and career development, how do you shield them from exploitation or static?)

What judgments do I make about my team members, about their attitudes, careers, life choices?

Then ask yourself…

What do I expect from my kids?

What do I think I know about my children? How does this knowing inform my communication style, motivation technique, mentoring method, approach to providing feedback?

How do I take care of my Kids? (List ways you assist in their personal and career development.) How do I protect them? What do I choose not to tell them in order keep their world happy?

What judgments do I have about my kids, about their attitudes, careers, life choices?

Notice where the answers to your millennial staff and your millennial children are similar or the same. Your parenting hat may be looming larger at work than you think. Notice what your answers reveal about your managing and parenting and how they may overlap. This is just an awareness of where humans incorporate all of their life experience continuously into the aggregate of who they are and how they demonstrate that in the workplace.  There is not a right or wrong way to be, so, no fair beating your self up! What’s important is to choose your best skill set for any given circumstance.

Parents of Millennials who are also managers of Millennials have tremendous insight into our nations largest workforce in history. It is essential that we encourage our life experience as parents to inform us in order to effectively manage and lead younger staff. Once you understand how you are showing up at work then you are ready to choose the hat that is going to empower your staff, encourage connection, build trust and support growth for each individual and for the entire team. Try it. The results will speak for themselves. And if you don’t get the results you want – you can always send them to bed without their supper!