Contention between millennials and baby boomers is a trademark of the 21st century. Google it, and you’ll turn up thousands of articles that slander one generation or the other. What makes their discord so fascinating? Great rivalries are born when two contenders possess complementary strengths and weaknesses—it sets the stage for fierce competition.
But imagine what would be possible if, instead of feuding, rivals came together and combined their strengths to form one unified powerhouse. It may not be the most conspicuous match, but millennials and baby boomers actually make great teammates. Here’s why:
The most popular misconception millennials harbor against baby boomers is that they are resistant to technology, and (considering how inundated the workplace is with technology) this makes them difficult to work with. While they do rank the lowest in adaptability, this does not mean they resist technology.
In their lifetime, boomers witnessed life-changing breakthroughs—like ATMs, the internet and cell phones—technologies that entirely altered the way we live and work. But these improvements were released at a much slower rate than the pace at which technology evolves today.
The baby boomer generation’s issue isn’t a refusal to use technology or a lack of enthusiasm for it, but perhaps a greater need for training/on-boarding.
Baby boomers are ranked the highest in terms of being constructive members of their organization. On average, they work about 47.1 hours per week, 8.3 hours more than most millennials, and more than 40 percent of baby boomers have stayed with an employer for over 20 years. This makes them excellent mentors for millennials, who are still climbing the ranks.
Wisdom, loyalty, perseverance and resourcefulness are strong descriptors of this generation.
The most common misconception baby boomers have about millennials is that they lack a strong work ethic. It’s assumed they are too dependent on technology to think for themselves or connect humanistically with the real world, which makes them lazy and difficult to work with.
In truth, millennials struggle with challenges no other generation has yet faced, like impossibly high debt and expensive college degrees that no longer hold the same value. These challenges have altered how millennials prioritize work and life. But the social and professional movements millennials have inspired is proof that laziness is not an accurate depiction.
With little hope for debt freedom, millennials chase what makes them happy instead of what makes them wealthy. They aren’t climbing the corporate ladder—they’re starting their own businesses, driving social impact and bringing focus back to community and family by starting or involving themselves in influential causes. They see work and life as an integrated concept and strive to make careers of their passions. Since their college degrees have done little to fast track their careers, millennials are thirsty for knowledge and crave learning through their own experiences and the experiences of others, which makes them excellent students for baby boomer mentors to take on.
Most notably, millennials are the first digital natives. Vehement, innovative, philanthropic and entrepreneurial are strong descriptors of this generation.
The productivity and work ethic of the baby boomer generation perfectly compliments the millennial generation’s passion, enthusiasm and willingness to take risks.
Together, the two could achieve unthinkable success in business and philanthropy. Because baby boomers believe in tenure, they have accrued impressive industry expertise, and make ideal mentors and leaders for millennial employees who have less specialized experience, but an eagerness and willingness to learn.
Tech savvy millennials make valuable allies for baby boomers, who may need a little extra help navigating the quickly advancing digital realm.
Despite nearing retirement age, 45 percent of baby boomers have zero retirement savings, and a growing number intend to work until at least age 70. Though this is disheartening, the millennial generation’s push for greater work/life balance provides baby boomers with greater access to workplace technology that enables them to work from home or enjoy flexible scheduling as they grow older and develop a greater fervor for life outside the office.
Apart, millennials and baby boomers entertain a tired feud and fail to reach their true potentials. Together, they have a collection of strengths that make them one of the most powerful labor forces in history.
Editor's Note: This post was previously published on Inc.com and has been republished here with permission.
Elizabeth Dukes' pieces highlight the valuable role of the real estate and facility managers play in their organizations. Prior to iOFFICE, Elizabeth was in sales for large facility and office service outsourcing firm.