DON’T PUT US OUT TO PASTURE YET…WHAT MILLENNIALS NEED TO KNOW ABOUT OLDER WORKERS

I recently wrote about what Gen Xers and Boomers need to know about Millennials in the workplace. In that article, I promised to present the other side and here it is! There is a huge age span out there in the workforce now and sometimes there is a difference in communication and work styles. Part of the problem may be that the Millennials look at Boomers and see their parents and the Boomers see their kids in the Millennials.

It is projected that in a very short time, Millennials or Gen Yers will be the largest age group in the workforce. But now, they are sharing it with Gen Xers, Boomers and even some Traditionals. People are continuing in their careers longer than past generations and the new crop of workers, those born between the mid nineties and 2000, will soon be in there with us!

We all are coming from different experiences and backgrounds, and I know that some older people can be too quick to judge the younger ones, so here are some tips for Millennials who are sharing office space with Boomers:

  • As a Millennial, keep in mind that those in older generations still have a lot to offer. They may have a few years on you, but they also are rich in experience and can be valuable resources. Boomers and Gen Xers don’t want to feel as if you are just waiting for them to leave. Ask them about their experiences, they probably have some good advice and some pretty good stories!
  • Remember that Traditionals, Baby Boomers and even some Gen Xers were once the youngest people in the workforce. We didn’t always understand the “old folks” who were set in their ways and probably wondered why they didn’t move on and let us run the show. Now we know how those “old folks” felt! Try to understand how we feel. Today’s Boomers are not our parents….we aren’t content to sit on the porch and rock. And remember that there will be a new generation coming in after you and one day you will be where we are. There are already Gen Zers out there on your heels!
  • Don’t get frustrated with those of us who weren’t born into technology. Remember that most of us grew up using dictionaries and looking things up in encyclopedias. We used pay phones that we had to dial and our first cell phones were giant bricks which could double as weapons. Sure, we may take a little longer to catch on to the constantly changing gadgets, but we eventually get there. Most of us have even thrown out our boom boxes! If you don’t know what a boom box is, you are younger than most of my shoes.
  • Just as the older generations shouldn’t assume anything or be judgmental about the younger ones, neither should the Millennials lump all of the older people together. We don’t all raise our eyebrows at your piercings and tattoos. Actually, I have a tat…but it is a lot lower than it used to be! What started out as a little hummingbird is now a flamingo.
  • The older generation comes from a culture of face-to-face communication. Some still hold on to that habit and are more likely to want to talk to someone in person, rather than via text. That doesn’t mean that they don’t understand electronic conversations, it’s just more comfortable for some of them to look at a person’s face when they are talking to them.
  • For your consideration: Most of the Boomer generation was brought up in a work culture in which a person stayed with a company and worked their way up. There was no such thing as tele-commuting or flexible hours. Required office attire involved suits for the men and dresses and hose for the women. This is a whole new ballgame for some people and it may take them a while to get used to a more casual workplace.

The truth is that no one, no matter their age, wants to be labeled or pigeon-holed as behaving or believing a certain way. I even question naming each group; Millennials, Gen Xers, Boomers, etc. The generational mix can be exciting and productive. The world is changing rapidly and the next group of young workers entering the workplace in a few years will be the first totally global generation. We all bring something to the table and all of us should treat each other with R.E.S.P.E.C.T. That’s what Aretha told us to do. And she is a Baby Boomer.

Linda Henley-Smith is an author, coach and speaker who presents keynotes and workshops on Managing the Generational Mix and Zapping the Gap! Visit her website at lindahenley-smith.com

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