(Being seen) catering to younger workers at the expense of the Boomers is dumb. If even one Boomer said, “Those twentysomethings (millennials) have no work ethic,” the unspoken rest of the sentence was, “And I’m not picking up after them. If you like them so much, make them work!” Before you decide that life as a cloistered monk or num is underrated, consider the following.
1. Boomers always have and continue to play on the company team. However, more now than ever, they need to be loved and appreciated. They are feeling the effects of aging and fear moving from absolute center stage. Without a manager’s attention they will resume their mantle of rebelliousness, sniping and playing office politics.
2. Boomer humor is misinterpreted by younger workers. A joking remark to a millennials feels like criticism or even bullying. What millennials want is non-stop direction and affirmation — not criticism of attitudes or reasons why they are different. Both groups have insatiable needs that can’t be met in the workplace.
3. Millennials and Boomers disagree absolutely on the role work plays in life. It is a mortal insult to Boomers that millennials don’t think work is the meaning of life — and won’t until self-employed. When was the last time you heard anyone under 35 declare he or she wanted to be CEO of a Fortune 500 company? Ask about Facebook instead.
4. The vast majority of millennials were raised by Boomers! As Shakespeare opined the fault is ours, not external.
What can you do to get everyone to produce what’s need with as little friction as possible? Defend nobody. It’s each worker’s duty to work seamlessly with everyone else. Boomers bluff, but will they leave? Pick your least favorite and call his or her bluff. “Does that mean you want to retire/leave?” Don’t be surprised if he or she back peddles instantly. The next time a millennials complains about a co-worker being “slow” or a “techno twit” ask about building and maintaining good relationships with co-workers. How has she increased her co-workers’ job satisfaction?
Outline your universal behavioral expectations including job-related socializing. If your normal is that everyone has a beer together once a month, or attend the holiday party and summer outing, say so. What are the “etiquette” rules all must adhere to? Be specific and repeat as needed. Use subject, verb, object sentences without weasel phrases such as, “It would be nice,” “I’m sure everyone would agree,” or “I’d like.” Those are Boomer teams meant to hint at, rather than state, an expectation. It is well documented that only Boomers are suggestible.
A little push and shove is O.K. as it signals people are invested, at some level, in the job. Your job is to keep expectations reasonable on everyone’s part.
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