The family visiting GM World Headquarters

Today’s workplace is a multi-generational place. We have folks interacting all the way up and down the age spectrum. This was the subject of  discussion between Laura Schroeder, and I this week.  You can see what she has to say on the matter here. Now this gerneraltional matter is something that HR folks feel compelled to want to manage this. Sometimes this is a good idea, while other times it might be best just to leave the folks to figure it out for themselves. This perhaps is one leadership tactic on addressing the issues, and some times it will work.

One of my sons was doing a college internship, working for the General Motors Corporation (pre-bankruptcy). As a college engineering student, he was brought into the plant and nearly immediately put into a supervisory capacity. He told me he found this to be a little overwhelming, but he felt he was being tested by his superiors. Naturally he wanted to do well.

Understand that this was at an auto plant in the Metro Detroit area. There were seven unions at the facility. My son told me he had one fellow that would not do what he asked him to do. He challenged seemingly everything he was trying to do. My son said this guy was undermining me and everything I was trying to do.

After about a week one day the veteran challenged the intern again, only this time the intern had enough. My son said he told the fellow, “come with me.” This was one of the first request that he complied with. My son took into one of the deep dark recesses of the plant and proceeded to tell him.. “Look you no good son of a b&$*#. I know you have a problem with a 21 year-old punk ass college kid being your boss. Well get over it! I am here and you are here too. If you don’t show me some respect and comply with my wishes I am going to make it my job, to make your life a living hell the whole time I am here. OK ? And that’s the program, got it?”

I am not sure the diatribe is verbatim but it is pretty close. This is how my son figured out how to deal with some generational differences that he was forced to address. I am not suggesting that his approach was a text book supervisory approach, but I too have encountered those folks in the hourly world who only understand management and leadership in this form.

For the record the plant worker and my son did not cross paths again for the duration of the intership.