Issues of a Millennial Workforce Reporting to Baby Boomer Bosses by Guest Blogger Staci White, CPA

While some Baby Boomers are starting to retire, there are many that are still filling upper management positions. As more and more Millennials graduate and settle into their careers, they are bringing different outlooks on life to the workforce. These two generations working together highlight the differences between Baby Boomer bosses and Millennial employees that can stir up conflict.

Baby Boomers have a distinct mentality about work and their positions within their organizations. Many Baby Boomers have an ambitious work ethic that can appear to a Millennial to be a workaholic attitude or a “live to work” attitude. Baby Boomers are also very loyal to the organizations that they work in, more so than their subsequent generations. This loyalty is beneficial because organizations require Baby Boomers to provide their vast array of experience, knowledge, and ethical leadership. However, with their work ethic and experience, Baby Boomers can get critical of, or frustrated with, those who do not share their same attitudes and qualities regarding work.

The fact of the matter is that Millennials have a different attitude surrounding work and how it fits into the grand scheme of life. First off, Millennials prefer to have a work-life balance that accommodates their pursuits of personal hobbies or interests. This attitude of “working to live” can come across as lazy to their bosses. Second, Millennials tend to want more frequent, open communication and feedback from their supervisors than preceding generations have. Supervisors may see this desire for more positive support as burdensome. Also, the Millennials’ inclination to want to talk about everything, even information that is more sensitive or reserved for senior management can be taken as a sign of disrespect. Third, unlike the Baby Boomers who are loyal to the company, Millennials are usually more loyal to an individual or supervisor that they admire. This creates a willingness to leave if the supervisor moves on or no longer works with them on a frequent basis.

Although all of the above Millennial traits can strain relationships with Baby Boomer bosses, Millennials bring some great qualities to an organization. First, Millennials are more accepting of diversity which leads to better communication and the ability to work in groups. Second, they have unique perspectives and can be a great asset when trying to solve problems. Lastly, they have grown up surrounded by technology. Millennials are great at mastering new technologies as they emerge. Organizations can use the unique attributes of both the Baby Boomers and Millennials to minimize the risk of clashing viewpoints.

There are three great ways a company or an organization can satisfy the new attitudes of Millennials while preserving the great qualities of Baby Boomers. First, organizations can encourage communication and problem solving by creating a more open work environment. This can be done through on-boarding processes with new hires to help assimilate them into an organization’s culture. Also, continued socialization after the on-boarding process fulfills the communication desire of Millennials while decreasing the differences that Baby Boomers’ perceive (Anderson, Baur, Griffith & Buckley, 2017). Second, when organizations are willing to add some flexibility into their structure they are likely to see many advantages in relation to their employees such as lower turnover, higher job satisfaction, and greater synergy with Millennials (Myers & Sadaghiani, 2010). Lastly, organizations can build on the technological savvy of Millennials by using the idea of reverse mentoring. Reverse mentoring is the idea of pairing a Millennial with a Baby Boomer to help the Baby Boomer learn how to more efficiently use the technology within the organization. This creates a sense of importance and positive interaction for the Millennial while at the same time allowing the Baby Boomer to teach the Millennial more about how the organization works and what is expected.

At the end of the day, whether you are a Baby Boomer or a Millennial, we should all be thankful because we help define each other, build off of each other’s strengths, and fill in each other’s areas of weakness to create well-rounded organizations and communities. We need to learn how to interact with the purpose of understanding our differences instead of criticizing them.

Anderson, H. J., Baur, J. E., Griffith, J. A., & Buckley, M. R. (2017). What works for you may not work for (Gen)Me: Limitations of present leadership theories for the new generation. The Leadership Quarterly,28(1), 245-260. Retrieved from https://doi.org/10.1016/j.leaqua.2016.08.001.

Myers, K. K., & Sadaghiani, K. (2010). Millennials in the Workplace: A Communication Perspective on Millennials’ Organizational Relationships and Performance. Journal of Business and Psychology,25, 225-238. doi:10.1007/s10869-010-9172-7

Staci White, CPA, is an accountant for Howard, Cunningham, Houchin, & Turner, LLP in Lubbock, Texas. She is a member of the South Plains Chapter and currently serves on the TSCPA Board of Directors.

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