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IMT 581: Case Study Analysis: Talkin’ ‘Bout my Generation

by on November 17, 2010

There are, at present, three distinct generations in the American workplace: the Boomers, moving steadily towards retirement but still commanding a great deal of senior and executive management; Generation X, the current backbone of the workplace; and Generation Y, the present rising star. The challenge, then, is for members of one generation to learn to work with — to manage up or down, as the case may be — older and younger generations.

Our first case study presents a brash young Generation Y employee, Josh, who bypasses the hierarchy to present his ideas straight to the CEO while skimping on the tedium of his main duties. Our second case study tells the story of a senior manager, Bob, who was once the most successful salesman in the company. But he has failed to adapt to the changing market, and has an abysmal sales performance now. Each case highlights the challenges faced by their managers who know they need to actively mentor them, but are unsure how to approach the generational chasm.

In comparing the cases, we saw that each employee had a great deal of energy and value to bring to the company, but they would need to be managed with the same amount of energy to really contribute to the company’s goals. For a twist on the cases, we imagined both employees working at the same company and considered the potential benefits of the older employee, Bob, mentoring the younger one, Josh. Bob’s enthusiasm for the job, interpersonal skills, and loyalty to the company are just what Josh needs to develop. Each employee is well-worth the investment – they both have years of potential work ahead of them and could accomplish great things for the company with them.
So, what do you think? What are the pros and cons of Bob mentoring Josh? If you’re part of Gen Y, would you appreciate having a mentor? Could you foresee any potentially negative outcome?

Ahsan Ali
Ross Donaldson
Sanjeevi Sturges


From → Coursework

  1. Colin Anderson permalink

    The first thing that comes to mind is that even if Bob is officially mentoring Josh, it may well be equally accurate to say that Josh would be mentoring Bob. While Josh has a lot to learn, the flexible Gen Y approach to corporate work is likely to be increasingly widely adopted and accepted in businesses. At least until Gen Z arrives and we all have to bounce back in the other direction. 🙂

  2. Though enthusiasm is critical to any job and new ideas are always great,as a new employee or even as any employee,you dont want to upset the apple cart or burn any bridges by bypassing your immediate managers by directly reaching out to the senior management with an idea or a proposal .In times like this,a mentor would be great as he/she would be able to advice the Generation Y person about the best process to do this without actually losing credit for the idea which might happen if the Generation Y person does happen go through the entire hierarchy

  3. Ahsan Ali permalink

    Good points. On the one hand, Bob could have recognized a valuable idea from a lowly employee such as Josh and given it some credibility, facilitating a conversation with others in management. But on the other hand, let us consider a detail we did not delve into in the summary above. Josh had ideas for marketing a new movie which were based on recent trends in internet and viral marketing. These would surely be alien concepts to Bob, would he really be the one best suited to judge whether Josh’s ideas are any good?

  4. Shawn permalink

    Interesting story, and I’m thinking if I were Josh, the young guy, would I listen to someone’s advice if he doesn’t seem to have enough legacy in the company. As you mentioned in the case, both guys suffered from the changes within the company, I’m curious to know if it’s feasible to put the two “lost” guys together in the hope of they learning from each other.

  5. Thomas Zhenhua Wang permalink

    It’s definitely good to have someone with more experience to mentor me. It really doesn’t matter which level I’m at. I think even a top executive would need someone else’s mentor some time. It really has little to do with someone’s level.

    The possible cons are the senior might limit the junior’s mind by limiting him/her to do exactly the same old way. In order to make the mentoring working, both parties should following some set of rules.

    For examples, the senior should expect and leave the freedom to the junior to develop his/her own idea and provide with the environment for him/her to exercise and at the same time try to learn from the junior as well. On the other hand, for the junior, he/she should understand his/her mentee status and expect to learn something from others. Apparently it is very likely the mentee may find there are better way to do something the mentor taught him/her, but the mentee should understand why the mentor is doing so, rather than just repelling.

    Patrick Lee, Tommy Hu, Thomas Wang

  6. This is a common problem in work area and I have often faced this problem of generation gap. But, there is always a requirement of understanding on both ends to have an effective communication channel. An interesting case would be where one of them is too egoistic to communicate with the other. In many cases, its the subordinate who is at the receiving end and in loss. And, to add to what Colin and Mervin said, its not always about idea generation but also about day-to-day tasks and communication required for trivial tasks. Problems arise at the lower level. To effectively manage such situation, the first and foremost thing we foresee is a sense of freedom and understanding between them. And, secondly, their focus should be on team work and organizational goal rather than individual interests.

    Shirish and Ke Ding

  7. Jeroen permalink

    During my internship I had this exact thing happen to me, not that my mentor was someone who wasn’t performing. He was actually very valuable to the team and company. But he also years of experience in the company and prior mentoring of others younger to him.

    What I recognize is that the mentor needs to have that skill of mentoring. To understand what that means would make all the difference. Simply because someone is senior to me doesn’t mean that I would be able to communicate and relate in a way that helps me out. What if I simply dread the thought of having to meet with him and he hates helping me out? This way it could even hurt both performance.

    – Gauravee, Surry, Jeroen

  8. I think I am more Josh. And change of command sometimes can result unfavorable results to an organization. To overcome the generation gap, I think management have to address the gap issue by letting new employees immerse into the company culture as soon as possible. In this way, employees of different generation can have the same goal and at the same time develop their working styles under organizational constrains.

  9. Tien Nguyen permalink

    Although I like the case study, since most of us will have jobs within few months. Yet, I feel it would be much better for our discussion if in this summary, you can briefly tell us the results of the two cases.

    I assume that these two cases aren’t real !? Can you find real samples to support your arguments?

    On behalf of Tien, Ruchi and Mansi

  10. Sanjeevi permalink


    The case studies are fictional and both end with an open-ended “what to do now?” But I can point you in the direction of a real story. Do you remember the video Kevin played for us where the manager asked an employee to deliver tickets and instead he left them at will-call? We should ask him to play the conclusion of that one for us. It’s an interesting issue — should the manager reward his ingenuity or reprimand him for not completing the task?

    Sanjeevi, on behalf of Ross and Ahsan

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