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Bar News - June 17, 2015

Book Review: Rikleen Provides Valuable Insight on Intergenerational Issues


You Raised Us – Now Work With Us
By Lauren Stiller Rikleen
American Bar Association, 2014
Hardcover, Kindle, 267 pages

If millennial workers give off an air of “entitlement”– as they are often accused of doing – they may not be the only ones. Many recent entrants to the workforce think their baby boomer bosses also feel entitled: to get their own Very Important work done without any “interruption” from employees seeking clarification, support, and feedback on work projects. Is it any wonder, they point out, that young workers feel unheard, undervalued, and misunderstood?

This is the minefield in which You Raised Us – Now Work With Us author Lauren Stiller Rikleen confidently strides. Remarkably, Rikleen emerges unscathed to share her knowledge and insight with workers and employees alike. The book assumes that the millennial is the employee and the Boomer is the manager, although the situation may certainly be reversed in some non-traditional or entrepreneurial firms.

You Raised Us is far more than just an update to the “You Just Don’t Understand!” management tomes of years ago, which addressed the workplace problems of their times. In this refreshing, timely, and down-to-earth work, Rikleen shares balanced insight into how the Digital Age generation works. (And yes, many millennials do work hard, despite the negative stereotypes.) She candidly examines how millennials, like technology itself, are changing and shaping companies. Employers who recognize this workplace evolution can benefit from it, she notes. Those who ignore the signs, on the other hand, arguably do so at their own peril.

Sounds familiar? Yes, many of these same issues and concerns were raised when Boomers and Gen Xers first entered the workplace. And to some degree, plus ça change, plus c’est la même chose. (“The more things change, the more they stay the same”). However, today’s work environment is also very different. Technology is changing at an increasing exponential rate, creating opportunities and challenges that did not exist a decade or two before. These rapid changes make many earlier management books obsolete and irrelevant. You Raised Us will be helpful to a boomer partner struggling to understand the effects of social media and the “iCourtroom,” while overseeing the work of millennial associates and support staff.

For instance, Rikleen advises that managers give millennials credit for being pressed into an often-unwanted role of technology instructor. She points out that boomers need to better understand the pressure that younger workers feel when these added responsibilities take time and attention away from the jobs millennials thought they were hired to do (and had hoped to do). Rikleen also advises that boomers train millennials to be more self-sufficient by providing training/development opportunities and adequate feedback.

While many boomer bosses see long hours as a badge of courage, commitment and loyalty to the firm, millennials frequently see burning the midnight oil as a sign of inefficiency and an unnecessary sacrifice to the gods of an uncertain future.

Most young associates will do what it takes to make partner, but they may not always do it un-begrudgingly. Rikleen’s book brings understanding that helps bridge the gap and increase job satisfaction without trivializing either side’s position. For example, she recommends that millennials be shown that so-called “inefficient” communication tools, such as face-to-face meetings, are actually valuable mechanisms through which relationships can be built and experience gained.

Rikleen manages the near-impossible – writing as a boomer without any discernable shreds of boomer bias. Millennials may argue that You Raised Us would be more “authentic” had she coauthored the book with one of them, but the book is nevertheless very good exactly as is.

Implementing the changes Rikleen recommends unquestionably takes time away from work tasks. This is something that both managers and workers are understandably reluctant to do. However, like the management books of 10 or 20 (or more) years ago, the question is not whether you can afford to make changes. Rather, it is: can you afford not to?

Lynne Guimond Sabean

Lynne Guimond Sabean is an attorney at Boutin & Altieri in Meredith and Londonderry and a participant in the 2015 Leadership Academy. As a later-in-life attorney, law school provided her with numerous opportunities to become familiar with intergenerational issues.

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