Boomers vs. Millennials: Values Based Conflict Lowers Productivity

If I had $1. for every story I’ve heard about work values of Boomers and Millennials  I could retire in seven-figure comfort.  Yes, there have been that many, all scenarios from central casting.  Boomers are sure millennials mean to wound.  Why would they say hurtful things if they didn’t?  FLASH!  Millennials were not reared with the same values as Boomers.  They were not reared to believe they owed a duty to others to “like” them or to  want to get better acquainted.

Work values of Boomers and Millennials clash.

The facts are as follows:  Millennials were reared to compete and win, not please.  Anyone who knows demographics knows that large groups view the world differently from small groups.  For example, Boomers born before 1950 came from a family with four children.  Those born after 1960 came from three-child families.  One-third of millennials (born after 1980) are only children.  Imagine a stay-at-home mom with one child!

When Boomers and Millennials meet in the workplace, the common ground is that they work for the same company.  Other than that, shared values are rare.  Even honesty isn’t a shared value.  Boomers believe in honesty tempered with euphemisms a.k.a mercy.  Millennials, when that asked for an opinion, say what they think — often with disastrous consequences.   Boomers believe a boss is to be pleased.  Millennials believe a boss is to be followed.   Boomers believe in sharing ideas whether asked or not.  Millennials believe their ideas have proprietary value and the best ones are not to be shared.

What can be done to bring these groups together and why hasn’t it already been done?  Every organization needs an etiquette manual which spells out how people are to  treat each other:  the modern version of the “Thou Shalls” and “Thou Shall Nots.”  Boomers control most organizations and  could make Millennials conform to their protocols if they  spelled those out.  But the rallying cry of Boomers is, “They should know what we want.”

What is the outcome of dissembling on both sides?  Productivity is the hostage and the victim.  By making Boomers spell out every order, the Millennials slow production.  By focussing on their own unmet social needs the Boomers slow production.  Who wins?  That’s the joke.  It’s a stand-off and a failure of both leadership and management.

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Filed under Boomers, Millennials and GenX, Workforce Demographics