A Unique Dynamic: Baby Boomers and Millennials Sharing the Workplace

As many baby boomers find themselves having to postpone retirement, they also find themselves sharing the workplace largely with coworkers of their children’s age. It is important for managers and coworkers to recognize, understand, adapt to and even take advantage of the differences in values, learning styles and work environment preferences that may exist. Of course, each generation is made up of individuals with unique traits and perspectives, something to keep in mind when taking the following generalities into consideration.

Preferences and Values that May be Held by Millennials

Time off, flex time, and a company’s contribution to a retirement plan:

This generation can expect to work longer before reaching retirement, so they may appreciate being able to enjoy time with family or other aspects of their personal life along the way. Many do not expect social security to be there for them when they are finally able to retire.

Transparency, open collaboration and the greater good:

Millennials tend to feel entitled to transparency – they want to know what drives a company or organization and they are willing to favor a brand that contributes to the greater good even if it costs a little more. They also want to know the ins and outs of the company they work for and may consider leaving a company if its values are not in line with their own. This group likes to get to the bottom line quickly and they are much more likely to work together and make compromises for the benefit of the overall group rather than holding out for individual victory. Millennials don’t generally work well under rigid management; they prefer a lateral organization as opposed to corporate hierarchy.

Technology:

Millennials have grown up in constant contact with friends and coworkers in an ever changing, quickly advancing world of technology. They are generally comfortable with, reliant on and likely to prefer working and communicating through methods of technology, like: email, text, skype, screen share, webinars, online training and telecommuting.

Preferences and Values that May be Held by Baby Boomers

Loyalty:

Having lived through the Vietnam War, whether they served, protested or found themselves somewhere in between, it’s likely that they developed a strong will to hold on to what they value and the skills to argue and defend their beliefs. Baby boomers tend to be hard working, loyal to a company for many years, and are likely to view compromise as a form of defeat.

Traditional work environment:

It’s no surprise that most baby boomers are most comfortable with the type of traditional work environment they’ve been a part of for the majority of their careers. They tend to place importance on higher education, value professionalism in the workplace, and expect a certain level of respect and formality between management and employees. They may prefer to communicate face to face or over the phone rather than by text, email or other modes of technology, which they may find to be impersonal. Members of this generation are used to, and likely favor, in person training with handbooks and power points.

Individual status:

Baby boomers are dedicated to their careers; they have made sacrifices, worked hard and proven their competitive spirit in order to establish their current positions. Professional success, prestige and personal accomplishments are what drives this generation. They are up for a challenge and tend to place more importance on individual accountability over a collective responsibility.

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