Works Both Ways - Boomers vs. Millennials at the Office

reaching balance through compromise

August 18, 2015 · Share via Email LinkedIn

It's easy to buy into the tensions between Boomers and Millennials in the workplace. Boomers see Millennials as impatient and unfocused; Millennials see Boomers as slow and stuck in their ways. Boomers see Millennials as lacking in commitment and work ethic; Millennials see Boomers as hierarchical and overly formal. Yet, as Millennials are poised to become one of the most integral groups in the workplace, learning how to work together is more important than ever.

Taking a look at both age groups, their differences can't be ignored:

  • According to a recent study from PayScale, 40% of Baby Boomers think that an employee should stay in a given job for at least 5 years; only 13% of Millennials agree.
  • 91% of Millennials assert that career success is necessary for a good life while Baby Boomers are more likely to draw distinction between career and personal success, according to a poll conducted by Allstate.
  • A study from Ernst & Young reveals that 78% of workers perceive their Millennial coworkers to be tech savvy, yet only 6% can say the same of their older colleagues.

However, Boomers and Millennials are more similar in their approach to work than we may think, and they can learn from each other, too:

Work-life balance

In today's "always on" world, Millennials and Boomers alike crave time away from the office. According to a study by Ernst & Young on work-life challenges across generations, while the younger generation accepts that work may bleed into their personal hours, they advocate for more flexible work arrangements. On the other hand, Boomers generally prefer a clear distinction between their hours in front of the desk and those spent with family and friends.

Mutual mentoring

Both generations can learn a lot from each other in the workplace. Older employees may feel that they're behind the technical curve and might look to their younger counterparts to keep them up to date with the latest tech tools and digital trends. In return, Baby Boomers are able to provide historical and broader contexts around such innovations. According to a 2012 study conducted by MTV, Millennials yearn for mentorship and constant feedback on their work, and Boomers' depth of experience is enormously beneficial here. There is much opportunity for mutual exchange and constant improvement.

Purposeful work

That 88% of Millennials are searching for meaningful work shouldn't take away from the fact that 4.5 million older Americans are pursuing encore careers, second careers focused on social impact in lieu of retirement. In fact, older Americans who continue to work after age 60 are often more enthusiastic and engaged with their work, indicating that they find fulfillment and purpose in their day-to-day work life. By focusing on the united purpose and overarching goals of specific projects, Baby Boomers and Millennials will find that they share significant common ground.

As the Boomer generation gives way to Millennial management, both generations will be challenged to compromise on work styles. Though, it's also very likely that the transition will be far smoother than anyone of any generation would expect.