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“It’s Not Me. It’s You!” Generational Differences in the Workplace

Posted by Our Life Covered on Jul 13, 2017 6:58:00 AM

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Whatever generation you belong to, you’ve probably witnessed it…the mutual and palpable disdain that Baby Boomers and Millennials have for each other. You can almost smell it, like locally sourced kombucha and Maxwell House coffee vying for your olfactory attention.

Boomers cling to their landlines like lifelines and keep their music stacked high in CD towers. Millennials are glued to their smartphones and have a Spotify playlist for every occasion. EVERY occasion.

Boomers don’t know how their email works. Millennials don’t know how to cook an egg without watching a YouTube video first.

Boomers think Millennials are coddled hipsters who want everything handed to them with a side of organic avocado toast. Millennials think Boomers demolished the economy and wrecked the environment and that their Applebee’s sampler platters are gross.


The Great Divide

These two generations, more than any other before them, love to hate each other. You can see it in the awkwardly snarky Minion memes that fill the space between crockpot recipes and Pinterest projects on your mom’s Facebook page. You perpetuate it with the clap-back tweet compilations you share. Maybe you’ve lived it, when your dad tells you to get a real job and a boyfriend who doesn’t wear ladies’ jeans, and you tell him to learn the difference between texting and email and to start recycling his Pepsi cans while he’s at it.

Logic, of course, tells us that not all Millennials are helpless and jobless and living off microwaved quinoa in their parents’ basements. It also tells us that not all Baby Boomers are tech-illiterate curmudgeons who think science is a liberal conspiracy. There’s enough truth to the stereotypes, though, enough evidence of these generational characteristics, to make you take notice.

The Way You Work It

The 2016 census revealed that Millennials have surpassed Baby Boomers as the largest living generation in the U.S. Along with the fact that the average age of retirement is rising, this means a lot of generational differences at work. On one hand, you have a diverse pool of skills and experiences and lot of opportunities to learn from each other.

On the other hand, unfortunately, you have divergent communication styles, conflicting strategies, and wildly different worldviews. Too often, young people shut down as soon as they see an indented paragraph or two spaces after a period, and older people refuse to take anything seriously if it includes even the most relevant emoji. As “the office” becomes more of an idea than a physical space, file rooms are replaced by flash drives, and the white collar/blue collar distinction is blurred by the “no collar” workforce, there’s frustration and confusion on both sides of the fence.

Your 50-something coworker thinks you have your head in the clouds, and you just wish she’d learn to back up her data there.

In Real Life

The bad news is that if you’re a Millennial member of the workforce, you’re probably making less money than your parents did at your age, and you’re almost certainly in more debt. This means that it’s REALLY important to learn how to manage your finances and understand the types of protective coverage you need, but that can be overwhelming. If you made it through college living in your parents’ home on your parents’ health insurance, the transition to autonomous adulthood can be a pretty shocking one.

Fortunately, there are resources. And Millennials are good at utilizing resources.

Adulting 101

Maybe you’re just looking for other people like you...a hive mind to solve the problems you have and a collective voice to address the problems you see.

Maybe you’re in need of practical information about specific topics, like health insurance, life insurance, or retirement savings.

Maybe you need a literal school to teach you how to adult. Will your Baby Boomer parents laugh at you for going to The Adulting School? Sure, but it’s all worth it if you come out knowing how to create a household budget and fold a fitted sheet, right?

The bottom line is, generation differences will always be part of life. As technology changes, and the world around us changes, the human experience changes…and wherever there’s overlap, there’s the possibility of conflict. But there’s also opportunity—responsibility, even—to share what you know and to learn what you don’t. So next time your brain is firing off eyeroll emoji at a Baby Boomer, offer a firm handshake, pour a strong cup of coffee, and listen to what they have to say. Then follow it up with a high five and a round of kombucha…just to keep the conversation interesting.

Topics: How to Adult, millennials vs baby boomers, generation differences, generational differences at work, Household budget

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