Congratulations! You have landed your first job just one month after graduating college. The problem is you are clashing with the old guy who sits in the next cubicle. He refers to you as the “young whippersnapper” during meetings. And although he’s not your supervisor, he orders you around like a 10 year old. But like him, you also endured four years of college, studied really hard, and completed two unpaid internships, while holding down a series of low-paying grungy part-time jobs. The only difference is that you didn’t do it 30 years ago. So the battle between the baby boomer and millennial has sparked in your office. The question is: should you ignore his jealous tirades?
Maybe, boomers and millennials just need to understand each other’s point of view.
“Both groups need each other,” JR Rochester, a recent graduate of East Carolina University, said on PRSA’s blog, The Edge. “They need each other for different reasons and are having a hard time understanding each other’s perspectives, values, motivations and intentions.”
Rochester added that among the clash of ideological difference, personal difference and professional difference, an accord must be reached. Both groups can teach, grow and learn from the other. But while in the middle of conflict, you may be thinking: that’s easier said than done.
Baby Boomers vs. Millennials
Like every other generation before, the battle between baby boomers and millennials was predictable. For one thing, most boomers believe that millennials are “lazy, immature, sloppy and in constant need of attention." Boomers also believe that most millennials aren’t prepared for the workforce. Millennials, on the other hand, don’t want to work with their parents. And millennials, for the most part, wish that boomers would just retire. If they did, you may be thinking, it would create more job opportunities.
Maybe there’s a little truth in both point of views. Rochester says that these differing values are ironically due to the boomers who have raised the millennials. He added that the different mindset on how to approach the workplace seems to be the overwhelming variance between the two. Boomers and millennials differ on how the workplace should be run, where one fits into the overall structure, how teams are comprised, when and why meetings are scheduled and how to effectively collaborate on a team project, to name a few, says Rochester.
Baby boomers, people born between 1946 and 1964, are a product of the generation before them who had postponed marriage and childbirth during the Great Depression and World War II, says the History Channel. And from the Civil Rights Movement to the Vietnam War, they have seen it all. They fought for social, economic and political equality, and justice for many disadvantaged groups. You, in some way or another, are benefitting from the boomers’ activism activities.
As students, they took over college campuses and organized demonstrations. Other boomers “dropped out” of political life altogether and became “hippies” who grew long hair, put on tie-dyed shirts, and experimented with drugs and “free love,” says the History Channel. Today, the oldest baby boomers are in their 60s. They had their time, right? So why is the old guy in the next cubicle “hating on” you?
Because of the Great Recession, most boomers have been forced to delay their retirement. Instead, they are working longer hours and feel more obligated to compete with coworkers whom they consider kids. But there’s no need for you to worry about whether or not the old guy who sits in the next cubicle will start lashing out.
For many boomers, there’s a new sense of camaraderie on the horizon. This is the year, says Time Magazine, we stop shaming millennials at the office or, uh, wherever it is they work. This new attitude, in part, is due to the enormous contributions that millennials have made in the workplace. According to the 2014 Millennial Impact Report—from Achieve, a research and branding firm, and the Case Foundation, which promotes positive change— nine in 10 young adults believe they are actively contributing to an organization that is having a positive impact.
As reported in Time Magazine, a Hartford trend report called The End of Millennial Shaming notes that these young adults “are not kids anymore” and that this is the year “we end the Millennial bashing once and for all.” This generation is now invading the workforce and “taking on more and more leadership roles in business, government, communities and culture.” The Hartford found that 41 percent of millennials already have four or more people reporting to them and that 78 percent consider themselves leaders in some part of their life.
“Today’s forward-thinking companies are looking at the future of corporate social responsibility and how employee cause work, company-branded volunteering and pro bono programs based on skills can play a role,” said the report’s authors. “For a company desiring to build a culture that resonates with this growing demographic of current and future employees, leveraging their passions is crucial.”
So give the old guy a break.
Coming to Terms
Although there are some big differences between you and the old guy who sits in the next cubicle, there are some inherent similarities. For one thing, both generations are among the greatest populations to have difficulties finding work. In July of 2013, the unemployment rate for boomers was 6 percent, and for younger millennials, 13 percent, says Forbes. Boomers are seen as the ultimate parenting enthusiasts; but millennials are also family-oriented, with 52 percent saying being a good parent is one of their most important goals in life, Forbes added.
So instead of rolling your eyes at the old guy, try having a conversation with him. Schedule a day to have lunch or, better yet, happy hour with him. Tell him how you feel. Also, get a sense of what his experience has been like at the company. Most importantly, listen to his point of view. You never know, he probably has some great advice that will help propel your career.
And remember: “The greatest gift one generation can give another is the wisdom it has gained from experience.”
Inspiring the next generation workforce