Business lessons from managing millennials and the elderly

When you enter your 40s (mostly), you become a sandwich. On one end are the millennials bandying words around like “triggered” and “swag” and on the other are senior citizens with urinary infections and dementia. As the sandwiched person, you are probably going crazy ordering tickets for BTS concerts (just the only most popular Korean boy band in the world, duh!), disposable catheters, anodized silver nose rings, dog food and under pads. We are the only customer segment that Google has not figured out yet.

But how does this help me at work? Just read on.

You become better at coordinating and managing: Imagine getting a phone call at 6 AM and the voice on the other end says, “I have collected the urine. Now what should I do?” There is no preamble, no intro – just this question. In an instant you have to understand context, calculate gravity of the situation based on the note of hysteria in the voice, and come up with practical solutions for the problem. As a tool that sharpens your analytical and contextual ability, these kind of conversations take the number one spot. As you explain the next steps (some steps at least 3 times) and then call the lab guy and then call the senior citizen back, you have spent the greater part of an hour ensuring that the urine is collected on time and tested.

Once this 6 AM call is taken care of, it is time to prepare for the next set of phone calls during the day that will ask questions regarding the communication from the lab, test results sent to the family doctor, his feedback, and the change of medicines and antibiotics, if any. Rest assured, once the antibiotics are purchased and given to the trained nurse to administer, you will still get calls from the senior citizen just before the antibiotics is administered every time to ensure the nurse is doing it right.

You become more patient with your peers and employees: If the above exercise does not build your patience, don’t worry. This is where the millennials come in. If you thought the senior citizen’s attention span was abysmal and their questions trying, wait till you try and get the kids to go with you, say for a religious event. Or even a family dinner. From the time we decide to go, rapid and logical explanations for every question/decision has to be patiently explained – the time you choose (it’s too early to eat!), the occasion (who celebrates their 80th birthday?), the venue (the reviews on Uber Eats is bad), the cuisine (not Indian again!), and food selection (you eat this at home; why can’t you try something new?). Assuming all these are answered satisfactorily and you do get to the restaurant, conversation gets difficult as they start fiddling with their phones. You dig deep into those hidden reserves of patience as you try to have a “bonding” session over dinner. Most times you come home exhausted, and promise yourself that next time you would order pizza for them and eat left over curd rice and head to bed. But since hope springs eternal, we are back next day, more patient.

Since your own blood relations don’t listen well, and it takes enormous amounts of patience and persistence to get things going at home, this is amazing training for when you get to work and have to deal with professionals who are willing to sit through an hour worth of powerpoints and hastily put plans, and then seem eager to get things done. Heaven indeed.

You become a master multi-tasker: Going back and forth between 4 senior citizens from the ages of 72 to 88, with afflictions ranging from cancer, dementia and Parkinsons to blood pressure, diabetes, heart conditions and bone loss, and 2 millennials who are into sports, fitness, Korean boy bands and want to pursue careers in foreign services and sports science, our household is a constant hotbed of activity/planning/discussion/budgeting/prioritization/change management/time management that would put a Fortune 500 company to shame. In a typical day, you are moving seamlessly between hospital visits and PTA meetings, booking tickets for concerts in London and planning trips for the senior citizen to visit her guru’s ashram in Chennai, conversing knowledgeably with lab assistants and personal trainers, and trying to fit in everyone’s agenda so you can get to work. And take a breather.

And when you arrive at your workplace, you truly are grateful for the relative order and peace, the logical flow of events and people’s ability to get you, mostly on the first try. The productivity of a grateful employee knows no bounds.

I am not a senior citizen; just a recycled teenager! Never have truer words been spoken. So if you don’t have senior citizens and millennials at a home near you to learn business lessons from, don’t fret. Just call me (hopefully not at 6AM) – am sure we can work something out.

This blog first published at

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