Millennials and Boomers: How can we get along in the workplace?

Once again, Haley and I had a discussion about employees, work ethic and just the general differences that we see between Millennials and Boomers when it pertains to the workforce. I, myself being a Boomer, believe a lot of the issues center completely around attitude. Haley blames it on the way she, or they (she despises being called the “M” word) the Millennials, were raised. Is it the different attitudes that are keeping us from working harmoniously or could it be something else?

More than one-in-three American labor force participants (35%) are Millennials, making them the largest generation in the U.S. labor force.

Pew Researach Center

While Millenials are often referred to as special or entitled and sheltered, they are also known to be confident, pressured and achieving.* On the other hand, the Boomer generation is often characterized as independent, competitive and “work-centric”. On the outside, perhaps it doesn’t seem like much to relate between the two, but underlying wants and needs are very similar.

We all are in the pursuit of financial stability, embracing diversity, and to be successful in our life’s work, all the while wanting to be able to contribute to society. Tall order? Perhaps, but someone has to do it. Yet, if the generations are unable to work together, how many steps backward must we take before we move in a positive direction?

Then again, maybe it’s no different than making the effort to get along with people. People that might have different views than your own or those that have different ways of doing things. People that want different things from their lives or jobs. Differences often mean change. Or compromise.

Baby Boomers have certain expectations of young employees based on their own experience

Mark Lurie, Why is there such a disconnect between Baby Boomers and Millennials when it comes to work ethic?

My parents were raised while the country was coming out of the depression. Despite wars and conflict, communities came together and invested in themselves, businesses, and social societies. While things were far better for us (Boomers) than for our parents, we were still expected to work hard for what we wanted and there were definitely winners and losers! We believe that we are and have been defined by our professional accomplishments or career focus; many times this means being with one company for many years. Loyalty to someone else, yet it is how we equate self-worth.

On the contrary, Millennials have been raised, although somewhat inadvertently, to believe that everyone can achieve and there are no losers. Each player on their soccer team always received a trophy, a certificate, and a party at the end of the season; each came away a winner because no one should feel left out! Because of this “sheltered” environment, Millennials are often thought of as being entitled and believing that they should immediately rise to a manager’s position without having put in the sweat equity that was a Boomer requirement.

While it’s been shown that Millennials don’t see themselves staying with one company or job for their entire career, they still have, collectively, vast amounts of energy and new expertise to bring to a company. It would be crazy not to utilize this while they are employed. Guiding and learning how to bring out their best to benefit the company is just smart and makes good business sense. We need our younger generations to succeed and perhaps they, in turn, will pick-up some knowledge from the old.

Although, don’t read this article from workfront, Baby Boomers vs. Millennials, if you’re beginning to feel all warm and cozy and about “generational harmony”. Kind of puts the brakes on the whole idea.

Fifty-four percent (of Millennials) say Baby Boomers are the biggest roadblocks in the workplace


Yes, I agree, “ouch” is a good way to put it. Yet, personally, I believe that we need to address the differences openly and without reservation in order for us to work well together. Most of that can be handled simply with a change in attitude. The attitude that we all can benefit from our differences even if it is just simply acknowledging that they are there. Neither generation is perfect, but I love this Michael Jordan quote:

“Talent wins games, but teamwork and intelligence win championships.” – Michael Jordan

Quote by Michael Jordan:  "Talent wins games, but teamwork and intelligence win championships."


* Strauss, William; Howe, Neil (2000). Millennials Rising: The Next Great Generation. Cartoons by R.J. Matson. New York: Vintage Original. p. 370. ISBN978-0375707193. Retrieved 17 October 2013.