Tulgan's Tactics

This article accompanies When Junior's in Charge

Monday, February 7, 2011
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In May of 2010, it became apparent to George Wilson, president of Metairie, La.-based Barriere Construction Co., that what was happening at his company demographically was also happening nationwide. Increasingly, older workers were reporting to more highly-skilled supervisors their kids' ages. The gap was widening.

Rather than wait until those age differences became a problem, Wilson decided to implement "Back to Basics," a management program designed by Bruce Tulgan, founder of New Haven, Conn.-based RainmakerThinking Inc. and an author, speaker and expert on young people in the workforce.

The premise of the seminar-focused training program -- modeled after Tulgan's two books, It's OK to be the Boss and It's OK to Manage Your Boss -- is to keep managers and supervisors of all ages focused on the work at hand and the roles each one plays in getting that work done.

"One of the biggest disconnects between older workers and younger supervisors," Tulgan says, "is that they try to build rapport around what they don't have in common -- their ages -- instead of what they do have -- the work that's right in front of them."

Tulgan's program teaches supervisors how to communicate like supervisors, fully explaining to subordinates what's expected, where to find the resources they'll need and how to anticipate small problems and solve them. In the same token, "Back to Basics" helps non-managers learn how to speak up if they're not getting adequate feedback and share their very valuable corporate and cultural knowledge in appropriate ways.

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The irony is that, while the program aims to diminish the age-gap problem, age differences have nothing to do with the solution.

"Both sides are learning that it's important to always communicate, both ways," says Toni Talluto, Barriere's CHRO. "A lot of the older employees have a lot of skills that the younger people do not have and I think the younger people are learning from those individuals. That builds the respect, both ways."

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