Surprisingly these two have quite a lot in common…
The past few weeks have left me very busy with my new job at the State Department which can explain why this blog has cooled off. So far things are going pretty well with my role in the Office of American Spaces and I am very excited that my department values my experience and is giving me quite a bit to do.
The environment at State is like none other and every day I get to work in a fascinating institution with even more interesting people that work toward a common goal.
Now that I am working again, I think it’s important to write about the relationship that Millennials and Baby Boomers have in the workplace and how it’s not nearly as strained as many reports like this one from The Daily Beast would suggest. If anything, both age groups can learn quite a bit from each other despite their differences.
Weighing in this corner…
As you know by now if you have read this blog, Millennials are the wired/digital natives generation born between 1980 and 2000 that grew up during the proliferation of technology, but graduated into the Great Recession.
Their employment prospects, income, and future outlook have probably taken the worst toll from the recession as they graduate with more student debt than ever before and their overall joblessness stands between two and three times higher than their older colleagues.
About 80 million strong, 10,000 millennials turn 21 every day in America, according to the MTV study “No Collar Workers.” Half of all Millennials are already in the workforce and millions more join every year. By the year 2025, three out of every four global workers will be Millennials.
Technology has been thoroughly integrated into their lives and they expect the type of individual attention at work that they had in the classroom and at home growing up.
Unfortunately Millennials have their fair share of haters who call them lazy, entitled, whiny, and only prefer to communicate via technology.
Boomers apparently blame them for being irresponsible and unable to grow up and embrace adulthood.
Baby Boomers on the other hand were born between 1943 and 1964 representing a spike in America’s population following the Great Depression and World War II and grew up during the the Vietnam War and the Women’s Rights and Civil Rights movements.
Unfortunately the recession also hurt Boomers pretty bad too.
Standing at about 72 million, many Boomers have seen their assets shrink and have had to delay retirement in hopes of making up lost savings.
Boomers suffer from the longest bouts of unemployment but have the lowest unemployment rate and highest total income of any age group. Boomers have their share of haters as well who claim they are resistant to change, stuffy, impersonal, greed and slow.
Apparently Millennials blame Boomers for milking the nation’s social safety net programs and their delayed retirement prevents Millennials from advancing their careers.
Different, but hardly strained
Recessions affect everyone, some worse than others, but these statements about Millennials’ apathy, Boomers’ greed, and the feud between them are nothing more than generalizations and stereotypes.
As reported by Businessweek, a college graduate is more likely to compete with a peer for the same entry-level job, not a 65-year-old, and vice-versa.
But to suggest that Millennials and Boomers hate each other defies common sense — Boomers birthed and raised the Millennials, so we are talking about each other’s parents and children.
In December, the Pew Research Center released a study that surveyed 2,511 adults about their attitudes toward reducing the federal deficit and preserving entitlements for older adults.
The study found that, if anything, both generations share a sense of duty to care for and help each other. Among the adults polled in the nationwide survey, Pew found no indication of a broader generational war.
Eighty-four percent of 18- to 29-year-olds polled said that adult children have a responsibility to provide financial assistance to an elderly parent if he or she needs it, while 54 percent of the 50- to 64-year-olds said that parents have a responsibility to provide for their adult children, the study says.
“Relatively few adults of any age group (28% overall) perceive strong conflicts between young people and older people,” the study says. ”In fact, generational conflict ranks at the bottom of a list of potential group conflicts in the U.S. Conflicts between Democrats and Republicans, rich and poor, immigrants and non immigrants, and blacks and whites are judged to be much more acute.”
So why the supposed feud? Embellishment makes for great headlines and sells.
A two-way street
Despite their generational differences from technological savvy to working styles, Boomers and Millennials have more in common than most realize. According to the Herman Miller study Generations at Work, both want to contribute to society through their work. They both also seek flexible working arrangements, value company loyalty, and strive for more than just financial compensation in their work.
And according to No Collar Workers, three fourths of Millennials want a Yoda-like mentor who can help advance their careers.
To bridge the corporate-generational gap, companies like Time Warner have created a “Digital Reverse Mentoring” program where senior-level executives pair with Millennials to learn about web applications and social media while Millennials receive career advice and guidance from sage executives.
Although not every individual of a particular generation will exhibit all of the characteristics indicative of the larger group, it’s much more helpful to view generations as complex groups of people with different values, goals, and points of view.
Most importantly, knowing each generation’s characteristics is paramount to any company or organization looking to attract, engage, retain, develop, and advance its members.
This blog post is reposted from Lance Fuller's blog, Voices of a Lost Generation that addresses the economic hardships that Millennials face through awareness, education, and social media. If the economy continues to struggle, Millennials could become a generation lost to the impact of the Great Recession.