I recently found myself in a conversation indicative of the generational divide. I was shopping for bands for my new Apple Watch in the Apple Store and the young man helping me was talking about his generation’s fascination with devices. He said, “Sometimes my iPhone is more interesting than the person I am talking to.” My first thought was, well, I hope he is not referring to me. Then I thought of the contrast to my generation who grew up with “love the one your with”.

My clients are constantly talking about their employment dilemma. They want to hire experienced people, and view Millennials as entitled and self-absorbed. I have always found this view to be shortsighted. Is it possible they are just different than us?

There is a fundamental shift underway as a result of changing demographics and a tight labor market. Last month the number of Millennials (75 Million) surpassed the number of Baby Boomers in the U.S.[i]  Perhaps Boomers need to realize that they are the ones that need to adapt.

So suddenly, more traditional employers are seeing the value of interactive employment websites, social causes, learning management systems and other resources that will engage Millennial employment prospects. In particular, large employers have learned the importance of locating in urban areas where X’s & Y’s like to congregate.

MTV conducted a survey to better understand how Boomers and Millennials can coexist and found that the sentiment of Boomers is: “give me my objectives and get out of the way,’” while a typical Millennial sought “‘flexibility, respect … and snacks.[ii]”  We may have some work to do.  And yes, I just quoted MTV as a legitimate business reference.

So, we Boomers need to get over ourselves.  Just because a younger worker would prefer to text you the solution instead of holding a more time consuming face to face, or because they are pounding out something on their laptop in a meeting, does not make them discourteous. It means they work differently than us, and we need to find common ground.  In the end, do we care how they work if they get the results?

Perhaps the most difficult concept for Boomers to grasp is that Millennials need constant feedback and stroking[iii].  If we want them to be more attentive, perhaps we need to be more attentive to them and illustrate that a conversation may be more meaningful than something they learn on YouTube. Being a mentor to a Millennial is more productive than complaining about one.


[i] This year, Millennial will overtake Baby Boomers Pew Research 1/16/2015

[ii] MTV No-Collar Workers Survey

[iii] How Boomers Can Play Nice With Millennial At Work by Stephanie White and Tom Tischauser Forbes 9/16/14