Attention Millennials: You Can Influence Boomers

Sal Mistry, a visiting professor of Management and Organization at SMU Cox School of Business, provides tips on how Millennial workers can more effectively persuade Boomers.


By Sal Mistry

According to Pew Research, approximately 45 million baby boomers are in the workforce. Not surprisingly, these individuals tend to occupy the senior-most positions within organizations. Millennials, now 53.5 million strong, however often occupy entry-level roles. This imbalance between younger and older workers often creates tension, primarily because younger millennial workers are often in situations where they have to persuade their older boomers.

Beginning with decentering and then executing these six tips should help millennial workers to more effectively persuade the boomers.

Tip #1 – Decenter

Before you can influence, you will need to “decenter;”that is, move from being locked into a constant state of self-centered perception. This form of deep reflection will allow you to create a more precise picture about your boomers and understand the challenging context that s/he faces. Decentering should also allow you to more precisely assess yourself and your needs because you will take an “outsiders” view of yourself.

Tip #2 – Rely on your Referent Power

Referent power is defined as the ability to influence others based on others’ having a desire to be associated with you. This could take many forms such as identification and attraction, but generally begins with “liking,” which means people generally say yes to those they like. Robert Cialdini, in his best-selling influence books, states this type of influence hinges on how similar you are to the other person. Although boomers grew up in a different time, they do remember the advantages of being young — a time where they weren’t tarnished by the circumstances of life and could see the world in terms of endless possibilities. You should seek to understand your similarity to the boomer in this regard and then carefully, through solid experiences, show how your limitless views have yielded results.

Read the rest of the tips.