Boomer. Millennial. Sometimes we don’t always see eye-to-eye. A transition of power between generations is nothing new. Anxiety over the pace of change and disruption in the current economic climate (and post 2008 recession) has led us to read more into the differences between Millennials and Baby Boomers than we should.
But here are some tips on how to be OK with Boomers and vise versa, instead of just saying “OK Boomer.”
Truly find a way to get to know each other:
If both groups have more regular contact, some generational “misconceptions” will start to evaporate. A way to do this is through reverse mentoring. In a traditional mentoring situation, the senior (typically older) employee will mentor the new, younger worker. But with reverse mentoring, it’s the Millennial who mentors the Boomer, whether it’s advising on technical issues or showing them how to make sense of the latest social media platforms.
The Baby Boomer certainly can still play a mentor role as well, but try to do it in a less formal setting. Creating a two-way street between the generations can lead to greater collaboration and help each generational group understand each other better.
Manager vs. worker:
In many companies, due to seniority, Baby Boomers are in managerial roles while Millennials work under them. This often causes strife if you don’t “get each other.” One way to avoid this situation is for Boomer managers to get a better sense of Millennial workers’ values and traits and set their expectations accordingly. Instead of getting frustrated and angry because a millennial worker prefers to text their boss, the boomer manager should realize that’s how the upcoming generation communicates and even admit that, at times, texting can be a more efficient way of communicating than a phone call.
The same applies to work/life balance. It may annoy you as the senior manager whenever a Millennial worker requests to work off-site or have Fridays off, and sometimes it simply won’t work out. But a manager who accedes to employees’ occasional reasonable requests for workplace flexibility can create more harmony than one who digs in their heels and demands “face time” at office desks.
On the flip side, you, as the Millennial worker, need to understand and see the value in having face-to-face meetings with a Boomer. Understanding how Boomer’s got to where they are and the effectiveness of being more “hands-on” can lead to greater collaboration and even increase creativity among the two groups.
Make it a Boomer/Millennial dream team!
A Boomer has experience with relationships – of all kinds – over a lengthy career and is usually a source of confidence in their ability to converse and communicate. Boomers have traditionally seen and done it all and are often willing to share their failures as well as their successes to help the next-gen. While a Millennial’s priority is of personal growth and development, they take the time – even when it’s uncomfortable – to talk about thoughts and emotions.
Millennials are also great at trying new experiences and a willingness to do something different than it was done before—if only to see if it can save money, time, or be more productive. Bring yourselves together and rely on each other’s strengths. Focus on the mission, the underlying purpose, the reason why things matter – and not about the process of how it’ll get done. This appeals to your shared sense of purpose and drive.
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