Generational Differences on Employers and Employment


“Millenials are idiots.” -The Generation that Made a Millionaire out of the Inventor of the Pet Rock.

Before I begin this post, I should state than I am neither a Boomer nor a Millenial. I am soundly in Gen-X, which essentially means that we are tired of both generations bullshit. For more information, this link pretty well sums it up. And yeah, this post talks about a lot of generalizations and averages. Of course there will be exceptions. These are just my observations and conclusions.

But being that Millenials and Boomers are so different and make up roughly equal portions of the population, it makes sense to talk about the different styles with which they work. It will become increasingly relevant as this blog goes on and I am able to share why ths blog exists to begin with. Generational differences in the workplace matter and yet are freqently overlooked. How do you motivate a Millenial? Cuz just calling them names and teasing about their inability to work without a cell phone attached to their ear or fingers is not it. What does a Boomer need in order to be productive?

Check out that graphic above. Seriously. It isn’t too snarky. Neither side is right or wrong, but neither can seem to understand each other either. Let’s start by considering the Boomers. These guys are the children of the Greatest Generation who fault World War II, sacrificing almost everything they had for a cause. Their children saw their parents’ sacrifices and dedication and they embraced that wholeheartedly. In particular, their view of a career involves retirement with a pension. And as we all know, pensions reward loyalty to a single company. You don’t get anywhere near as much in retirement if you haven’t put in the years. Also not from the graphic that they are willing to work long hours for a manager they respct. This is one side of the coin.

The other opposite is the Millenials (because remember, us Xers don’t give a shit about either side). Millenials are the children of the Boomers. They are criticized frequently as needing constant praise and awards. But let’s think about where they came from. They grew up in the time of participation trophies. They have spent their entire lives in a world that provides them constant (and generally very positive) feedback. But these guys also bore witness to the courts dissolving pensions. Most view that social security will not exist when they go to retire nor will pensions. So their retirement will be based on their 401k’s or other personal savings mechanisms. Loyalty to a company is no longer required for retirement. But oops! That means if they leave a pension-based company, there is no one to pay into the pension that the Boomers are relying on. Danger, Will Robinson!

The fact of the matter is that Millenials can, will, and do leave companies all the time. There are all kinds of infographics that show they will work, on average, for 5 years for a company before moving onto the next one. And the Boomers will stay an entire career at one company. Here is another catch though…based on seniority, the Boomers are the managers trying to manage people with a completely different value set than they have. The Millenials have not developed the repect for their bosses that is a hallmark of the Boomers. This, my friends, is what we in engineering call an impedence mismatch (look it up).

There is no one right way to work. It doesn’t do any good to criticize a Millenial for not having loyalty or slight a Boomer for being work-obsessed. But you CAN take note of what motivates people. (Again, the graphic dear reader.) Millenials are drawn to work-life balance and a fun environment to work in. They need personal satisfaction in their job. As a Boomer manager, how do you provide these things?

My reason for this post is that, as this blog moves on, I hope it becomes clear that things like work-life balance and satisfication in the work product are important for me (even though I am an Xer) and pretty much most people below a certain age that seems to be defined by the pension/no pension cutoff. Moving from one job to another is the new norm. Those employers that can work with that new norm or even thrive in it will survive. But that means also that there are a lot of other employers that won’t.

Written on June 28, 2017