I am a proud member of Generation Y, not ashamed that I grew up using computers and the internet. If you’re a college student reading this, you are most likely a member of Gen-Y, too, so go ahead and work your “Millennial” label to your advantage.
Generally speaking, as you enter the workforce, you may be at an advantage because our generation is more tech-savvy than previous ones. But even though you have fresh ideas and can work Photoshop like a pro, that doesn’t mean you will (or should try to) take over the business in one week. You have to build and maintain relationships with your managers, coworkers and mentors who are Gen-X and Boomers, and that takes time. You can’t Google yourself out of this problem, no matter how hard you try.
I graduated from college five years ago and since then I have learned first-hand what it takes to build relationships across different generations within a workplace. For each year I have been learning, I will provide a tip to you, my fellow Millennial, on how to work alongside Boomers and Gen-X.
1. Gen-X and Boomers had to “learn the hard way.” Do not be discouraged if you feel your manager is holding back information. They want you to experience learning the way they did. Be resourceful. Today we can all gain quality information quickly, with the world at our fingertips. They had to talk to peers, use trial and error or go to a library.
2. Boomers appreciate real live conversations. I have been guilty of communicating all too often via email or text, but nothing can replace what happens when you are face-to-face or having a real conversation with someone. Do more of this and think before you send that next email. Ask yourself, would this be more effective if discussed live?
3. Boomers do not always adapt well to change. Many of the Boomers have stayed in the same role most of their lives. Remember this when you spring on that new idea to completely change a process that has been in place for several years. One, they may actually have valid reasons to resist change and two, even if you are totally on target it may take more time and information for your manager to come around.
4. Gen-X and Boomers may not be as used to collaboration as are Millennials. Millennials are on the “we” team and generally prefer to solve problems and work in teams whereas some Boomers and Gen-Xers are used to doing much on their own. I’ve experienced push back in the past when scheduling a team meeting to talk about solving a client problem. In hindsight, I realize they did not understand why I couldn’t solve that on my own. Also, a Gen-X or Boomer manager is not going to act like a helicopter parent. They tend to be entrepreneurial thinkers and results-oriented, so they may not tell you how to do every step of the job.
5. For many Boomers and Gen-Xers, work has been/is their number one priority. Do not be upset if you aren’t greeted with excitement when you ask to take that two-week vacation to clear your head. They built their career with the mindset that work comes first.
Lastly, as more Boomers work past retirement age, and tech-savvy millennials continue to graduate and enter the workforce, differences in values, communication styles and work habits of each generation are becoming increasingly pronounced. However, it is important to remember that each generation brings their own set of work skills and knowledge to the table. A successful team should be a melting pot of different generations working towards a common goal. While you are proud to be a member of Gen-Y, make sure you build those relationships with others and you will be surprised at what other generations will teach you.
-Jeralyn Novak, Communications Coordinator, Beefmaster Breeders United