Be The Best Of Both Worlds: The Difference Between Millennials And Baby Boomers In The Workplace

by Sam Aboudara

Frequently, I read articles that waffle between middle-aged corporate figures attacking Millennials and their lack of work ethic, and Millennials defending themselves for being unfairly judged. As a Millennial, I try my very best to empathize with the Baby Boomers and their opinions; I regularly critique my over-indulged generation that has grown up with a gross sense of entitlement.

We enter the workforce expecting to be CEOs by age 30 while simultaneously feeling confused as to why it’s unrealistic to leave the office each day at 5 pm. I get it, we’re annoying — so, understand that my opinions come from a place of empathy and respect for my elders, with critical judgment of my peers.

I work in an office environment in which I am among the three youngest of 25 employees. I have spent three years working for this organization and am no longer the junior in the office (despite being the youngest). My direct supervisor is the CEO; I have established a good professional reputation for myself and now feel that my opinion matters.

People in the office care to hear my thoughts. Still, I’m in charge of changing the water canteens in the office and I shovel the entrance when it snows and gets slippery. I happily do any task presented and teach or assist anyone who asks. The thing that frustrates me so frequently is my colleagues’ unwillingness to learn.

Technologically, we are at an incredible turning point, in which we’re embracing modern techniques, digital advancements and social media proliferation. In fact, businesses no longer simply accept these things — they downright rely upon them. On the contrary, we are still living in a world that is recovering from The Great Recession. While businesses are eager to expand with modern methods, they still require consolidation.

In business, we have to accomplish more with less. There is a rise in the demand for employees who can lend their skills to a variety of tasks. A web coder is more valuable if he or she can also edit videos, use graphic design software and manipulate spreadsheet data.

Millennials completely understand this principle; once we embrace the reality that as real-world professionals, we need to put in the long hours required to start working our ways up the ladder, our skills should make us totally marketable. A contemporary formula for success combines a solid work ethic with modern skills.

Have you ever heard the "I’m too old to figure that stuff out" excuse when an older colleague asks for your assistance in something that requires technological knowledge? It drives me crazy, especially given that I am fully prepared to teach and educate anyone who struggles with computer programs.

While I certainly do not attest to being an expert in any of the aforementioned areas, I recognize that outsourcing professional training can be expensive for a company — utilizing me as a free resource could ameliorate the problem, but I’m not being used efficiently. When I sit with a colleague and offer my help, it quickly becomes clear that the colleague just expects me to fix things. The colleague never shows any intention of taking notes, meaning I’ll be the go-to person every time this scenario presents itself in the future.

It’s happened with database software, social media sites, email marketing sites, creating PowerPoint presentations and many other scenarios. My older coworkers seem to subscribe to the idea that "you can’t teach an old dog new tricks," but this seems like a pretty entitled mantra to adopt. Maybe Millennials don’t make up the only entitled generation.

Growing up, my parents forced me to learn to navigate the world by myself. When I asked questions, they taught me how to acquire the answers myself, rather than simply supplying them for me. Look it up. Google it.

When I entered the job market, I was forced to confront and abandon my issue of entitlement. I came to realize that the world would not be my oyster — I had to create my own oyster, work my way up, swallow my inflated pride and learn to respect the opinions of those who grew up with very different value sets, who possessed more work experience and life knowledge. They taught me to solve my own problems and not expect to be given solutions. A few years on, I feel it may be time to return the advice.

If you identify with similar issues, fear not; upon using these approaches, it's manageable.

1. I pick my battles. Not every ridiculous scenario is worth arguing. It’s easier to win the battles that I choose since I’m not constantly argumentative.

2. I take time and sleep on my thoughts. My immediate response has changed to “I can’t right now, but let me get back to you on that.” Often this prevents me from reacting inappropriately and letting my generational bias cloud my judgment.

3. I de-stress. This helps me with the battles I lose (no one always wins) and the ones that I choose not to take. It might mean going for a run, writing this article or doing yoga.

4. I continue to ‘kill-it’ at work. Regardless of what happens, I stay focused on my future career ambitions and make sure not to give my older counterparts any reason to label me as a lazy, entitled kid. I work even longer hours, take on extra projects and produce more (and better) results.

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