What a 13 year old taught a boomer about managing millennials in the workplace.

Best Pasta Dish

It’s official. My 13 year old son is a better cook than me. And, it’s not just him who says so.

An objective panel in a blind taste test (aka guests over for dinner on Saturday who didn’t know who made which pasta dish) ate all of the pepper pasta dish he made, with barely a taste of my pasta marinara. Of course this was not scientific with controls for specific pasta preferences…but, really-every bite of his dish, and three containers of leftovers for mine.

…and this is a good thing. Not just because he can cook his own dinner now (yay!) but for the parallel insight for boomers managing millennials in the workplace.

Information, ideas, can come from everywhere.

In the olden days there was a much more hierarchical flow of information. As in, “I’m the boss,” or in this case “I’m the mommy,” so I’m supposed to be in charge. Now, information is readily available everywhere. By the time I ponder where I might have tried parmesan pepper pasta, my son has eight options for recipes from top chefs.

 Micromanaging isn’t helpful and can inhibit overall productivity.

Be confident that you’ve taught (or hired for) the skills needed or have created an environment where someone can ask for help if they need it. Discuss the desired outcome (e.g. a pasta dish with a white sauce), but let the employee fill in the details to achieve the desired outcome. The result? Pride, ownership, and double the productivity in the same amount of time.

 Allow room for mistakes (and know that you don’t always have to be the one with the right answer.)

Truth be told, on initial testing, I thought his pasta had too much pepper (meow?) and would be too spicy for our guests. My son was very confident that the pasta tasted good, so we went with it, although as a back-up, he asked if I would take credit just in case. When Roberto went in for his third helping, exclaiming “this pasta is so good,” I silently knew I had been wrong, and publicly credited my son. (Oh—and also took responsibility for the red pasta that wasn’t so successful. “There’s just so much else to eat,” said my friend Jennifer, in an attempt to comfort me.)

There is many an article that talks about the challenges of generations in the workplace. “Boomers and Xers are used to a hierarchy that’s foreign to most of their younger colleagues.” “Baby boomers are micromanagers.” But, time and again studies show that companies with more diverse workforces perform better financially, and that includes diversity across generations.

What lessons have you learned from unexpected places?