When I was in my late teens and 20’s, “you can’t trust anyone over 30” was a fairly common refrain. Of course, now that I am well over that age I shake my head at my naivete. Afterall, even then I had teachers who supported me and I admired. I had a mother who provided unconditional love and who was 35 when I was born. I had movie idols who were older than 30. Yet, still, I remember accepting the slogan.
Nowadays there is a similar thread spreading through social media. It has to do with sterotyping both Baby Boomers and Millennials. Baby Boomers, we are being told, are clueless when it comes to technology and social media. They are prejudiced and condescending. Millennials, on the other hand, the same article will state, are entitled, selfish, lacking manners and unrealistic.
It should not surprise us as a new large demographic population (Millennials) moves into the workforce and will soon outnumber the last large demographic population that took over the workplace (Baby Boomers) that there is a spark of conflict. It happened forty years ago and history repeats itself unless we learn from it. So what can we learn from this tide that is turning in the workplace?
First, perhaps we could see the benefit of the change. Baby Boomers changed the workplace in some very positive ways when they stormed the barricades so many decades ago. When I first started work, people still smoked at their desks. There was rampant, overt sexual harassment (the change has been in the overt part, it’s more subtle now). There was little team work and a very hierarcharical management style. Process improvement was unheard of. Innovation was not on everyone’s mind. Instead, we were told, it was the way we have always done it!
While there have been improvements in these areas, there is still a way to go. And just like the Baby Boomers moved the ball up the field on these issues and others, the Millennials will move it even farther. I am convinced we will see innovation in the way organizations are led and managed because of the contributions of the newest generation. I am eager to be part of helping those needed improvements happen and support the efforts of those younger than I who have the most at stake in succeeding.
Second, I believe I may have posted articles that have included these negative stereotypes and I should not have. For this, I apologize. We all know that every generation, both genders, all races and ethnic groups have their share of jerks and their share of extraordinary people. Most of us fall somewhere in between. So highlighting the negative aspects serves no purpose and only reinforces something that is not a universal truth. So join me in not posting or “liking” those kind of articles anymore.
As a baby boomer in the last ten years of my career, I find myself reinvigorated by the energy of those called Millennials. I know I can learn a lot and I still have a lot to share. Let’s join together in that spirit and make working better for all of us.