Young Bosses Push Elders To Embrace Technology As baby boomers delay retirement, they are finding themselves with bosses who are younger — and more tech-savvy — than they are. For many older workers, that means learning to live with a BlackBerry, Facebook and other high-tech tools.
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Young Bosses Push Elders To Embrace Technology

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Young Bosses Push Elders To Embrace Technology

Young Bosses Push Elders To Embrace Technology

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Among the many firsts with President Barack Obama is the first presidential BlackBerry. The president basically refused to give up the handheld email device when he took office. At 47 years of age, Mr. Obama is younger than most of the people in his Cabinet, but that situation of a younger, tech-savvy boss and older employees isn't unique to the White House. Tamara Keith reports.

TAMARA KEITH: Washington, D.C., Mayor Adrian Fenty is 38 years old, and he has a reputation for being a BlackBerry addict. He has three of them.

Mayor ADRIAN FENTY (Washington, D.C.) One is for personal use, so it's a personal BlackBerry. One is a standard government BlackBerry, and the other one is a police BlackBerry.

KEITH: The devices have become an integral part of his administration. Everyone who works for the mayor has one - or two.

Mayor FENTY: It's fantastic. I think it improves productivity.

KEITH: Even one city official nearly twice Fenty's age pecks out messages on a BlackBerry right along with the rest of them.

Mr. PETER NICKELS (Acting D.C. Attorney General): I'm Peter Nickels. I'm the attorney general of the District of Columbia. I'm 70 years old.

KEITH: What does he think of all the BlackBerrying?

Mr. NICKELS: I'm against it.

KEITH: Nickels says if he could go without a BlackBerry, he would. He's nostalgic for a time when people actually looked each other in the eyes, and is sometimes perplexed by the whole BlackBerry culture. He says he recently sent an email and got as a response what seemed to him to be a nonsensical string of letters.

Mr. NICKELS: And so I went back to the sender and said, what language is this? The response was, this is, keep me in loop.

KEITH: When it comes to older employees and their younger bosses, it's more than just age and technology. It can be a cultural divide. Lisa Orrell is a generation relations expert and the author of "Millennials Incorporated." Millennials are people born in 1980 or later, also known as Generation Y.

Ms. LISA ORRELL (Generation Relations Expert; Author, "Millennials Incorporated"): So what's happening is all of a sudden, you're 53 years old, and you've got a 28-year-old manager, and the millennials are very, very, very different.

KEITH: They've grown up with the Internet and love to communicate. At the same time, younger people are coming into management, Orrell says many baby boomers are delaying retirement. Her advice for older employees...

Ms. ORRELL: They have got to be a heck of a lot more flexible than they've been.

KEITH: She has suggestions for younger workers, too. They should respect the experience of their elders and be willing to teach them about things like text messaging, Facebook and Twitter. That's essentially what happened at Serena Software, a company where most of the employees are older than the CEO. Forty-one-year-old and younger at heart Jeremy Burton decided everyone at Serena should be on Facebook.

Mr. JEREMY BURTON (President and Chief Executive Officer, Serena Software) I want folks to learn about the software as well as learn a bit more about the folks that they work with, which I think is great for team building.

KEITH: With some coaxing and coaching, Burton says it worked. He was able to bring even his more senior employees along.

Mr. BURTON: There's about 95 percent of the employees up there, and I can see the status of probably 50, 60, 70 people right from my desk.

KEITH: That includes senior manager Tom Clement's status.

Mr. TOM CLEMENT (Senior Manager, Serena Software): It says, I just find out that I don't have to worry about injuring my knee anymore because it's already shot.

KEITH: Clement is 55, and until his boss nudged him towards Facebook, he had no use for it.

Mr. CLEMENT: I didn't really get it.

KEITH: Now Clement says he does, but there are just so many other things to learn about, like Twitter.

Mr. CLEMENT: I think it just makes me wish that I could magically understand all these things, the way you might magically understand things if you were growing up as a teenager and everyone around you were using all of them.

KEITH: He's sounding more like a teenager already.

Mr. CLEMENT: Do you want to be my Facebook friend?

KEITH: Sure. For NPR News, I'm Tamara Keith.

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