At a panel discussion following a presentation on workplace demographics, a Boomer and a Millennial had a shouting match. They thought it was about rules. It was about expectations. Boomers and Millennials have differentl expectations. The Boomer complained that her twentysomething employees were “never on time and unreliable.” A twentysomething said, “That may be but we meet deadlines and do good work.” The game was afoot.
Differing expectations, not to mention definitions, of what constitutes good performance put on thumb drives would fill the Grand Canyon. Never have two groups been so far apart on basics.
“If I arrive at 10 a.m. and work twice as fast to get the job done well, what is the problem?”
“I expect you to be here during regular business hours. What if I think of something I need you to do and you’re not here?”
“I’d call that poor planning.”
You see where this is going. The intractable problem is not twentysomething unreliability but the absolute refusal of Boomers to s p e l l t h i n g s o u t! Some part of the Boomer psyche warms to the idea that others read minds and will intuit what is expected. This is unrealistic in the extreme. It’s a power play. “Do you really want to work for me? Then figure out what I want!”
As more twentysomethings enter the workforce they’ll develop a critical mass. When they are 30 percent of the workers they’ll demand clear rules with no hidden agenda. They will get them. As long as Boomers continue to treat twentysomethings as “mini me’s” — people who understand and share Boomer assumptions there will be conflict with bruised egos all around.
Does anyone else think this is silly? Instead of punishing people for not knowing what’s expected why not spell it out? Boomers know why. Once you spell out expectations and all the hidden agenda office politics ceases to be combative — and fun! How can Boomers display their superior political skills if they aren’t needed. Clarity trumps office politics every time.
Finally, I’ve noticed that Boomers who refuse to spell out expectations in words of one syllable do so because they want “flexibility.” That means they don’t want to be tagged with expectations that may make them look/feel old and musty. As Boomers retire and younger workers move up they will write it all down. Unfortunately, it may take another ten years.