While I was Partying Like it’s 1999… My Boss was Being Born
Closing the generation gap
After taking nearly a decade break from working in corporate America to raise my family, it was time to get back to it.
Hours of searching, numerous applications and several nerve wracking interviews later, I landed a job. Yippee! It was an opportunity to get out of the house, jumpstart my career, and to interact with people. The pay was decent and the hiring manager seemed to value my experience. My confidence was soaring and I got my mojo back.
On the first day I met my supervisor. Oh my, was he young…very young. Let me stop right there and clarify that I started working when I was just 15 years old and I detest those “are you qualified” looks from older people. My being taken aback wasn’t because I was discriminating or felt he couldn’t do the job. The noticeable age difference was just startling to me on a personal level.
The rest of my team was also much younger than myself. Not the “I could be your mother” type of young. Well, unless I had decided to skip the college frat parties…errr…I mean education…and get straight to having kids. But still, they were much younger than I was.
I really wanted to fit in with both my supervisor and the rest of my group. I mean, I did consider myself pretty hip, after all. I knew what lol, and wtg stood for and had a decent grip on the difference between Iggy Izalea and Katy Perry. How hard could it be to connect and work with a younger generation? However, it became obvious early on that I had very little in common with my new coworkers. While they organized after work events to check out new bands, I was planning a potluck for my kids school. I referenced “Mork and Mindy” and they thought I was the one from outer space.
So, I devised a plan. I would wait for the opportunity to show them how cool I was, which, looking back just confirms how uncool I really must be. I would strategically hang around the coffee pot in an effort to make some small talk with the others. That is, after all, where all the gossip action in an office happens, right? But no one showed up! Turns out, coffee pots were “sooo outdated” and while I was waiting with my powder creamer and “I drink coffee so I don’t kill people” mug, they were doing espresso runs to Starbucks.
Occasionally, we would eat lunch at the communal table. “Here’s my chance” I thought more than once. But the hour that should have been prime time for making connections was spent with the rest of my team face down, glaring into cell phones with their thumbs getting quite the workout. And, if conversations did manage to sneak through in between sharing the latest meme or gossip, they were about what was trending on social media. Who is Becky and why do we care if her hair is so good anyways?
On one monday afternoon, I bonded with my boss over the Superbowl game. I felt like I had to mimic his disposition, so I too sat “criss cross applesauce” on the floor with our backs against the couch and laptops on our laps. He took this opportunity to make sure that I was on track with work, but it turned into a micromanaging session. To be fair, he probably thought that at my advanced age some form of dementia would inevitably be setting in and that I would be forgetful and things would fall through the cracks. It really is difficult to take direction from someone who was in preschool while I was drinking wine coolers at high school football games. As I was trying to figure out how I was going to get out of this kindergarten rug-time position gracefully, I was also beginning to doubt my abilities.
But then my boss mentioned in passing how he would be getting together with friends to watch the Superbowl that weekend. Now, football, there’s a game I know well. On the plus side, the rules haven’t changed much over the years and it’s something you can put on in the background on Sunday afternoon while you’re busy cooking, cleaning…or chasing toddlers. Before I knew it we were laughing and trading names and stats of current players and my boss was pointing out a change I had made in a work document that he thought was a good idea. Touchdown!
In the end, regardless of how scary our differences or how long it had been since I’d been in that role, I did it! I had survived going back to work. Was I able to fill in the generation gap? I don’t think so. But maybe it isn’t necessary. We each bring our own experiences to the table and maybe being different has taught both myself and my coworkers something useful we wouldn’t have learned if we didn’t embrace the peculiarities of our respective ages. And, in the process I earned some money and many new “friends” on my social media networks. Oh, I also learned how to take a darn good selfie.