So there was this presentation at a recent conference that I keep thinking about: a presentation on the challenges different generations within one organization face: challenges communicating, differing expectations, sharing of feedback, work styles, and more.
Background – My employer has undergone tremendous growth over the past couple of years – with so many coming, and even more going. And when employees leave, we don’t know they’re gone until their emails go unanswered or, worse yet, names disappear from the employee directory.
Change can be good. But it can also be unsettling.
It’s odd being the last one standing from the original team.
Some retired, some fired, others left on their own.
I’m the keeper of a history no one cares to know about, until they need it. And explaining it over and over again is exhausting. I’ve had four bosses in two years ~ my head’s spinning.
At 55 I’m now the oldest employee in the office; it’s to me whom others come to for advice, counsel and direction. 50% of our workforce is under the age of 37.
Those of us with 20 to 30 years of experience are in the minority; even more rare are employees like me who’ve only had two to three employers our entire career. The new normal is 5-8 employers by age 35.
A 60 minute conference call can start with 15 minutes of praising and fawning over the leader. I’m embarrassed by a the clamoring, gushing and kissing of the ring. Blah.
My generation, the baby boomers, had many candidates competing for each job, every opportunity, every advancement. We signed up, showed up, and kept up. We got it done.
We wrote and adhered to policy, learned by trial and by fire, came in early, worked through lunch, and stayed late. We respected authority and boundaries and did our best to manage and succeed through the pace and the stress.
“Work/life” balance, what’s that? “Purpose over paycheck?” Huh?
Boomers stayed loyal to our employers, believing that, over time our hard work and dedication would be rewarded. And sometimes it was. But, just as often, it wasn’t.
Now we find ourselves working with much younger colleagues ~ Generation “X”ers, and Millennials.
Lest I sound too negative let me make it clear many are smart, creative and witty. They’re accomplished, hard-charging, bright and capable.
However this is a group who seems to be always “on,” consistently paying half-attention while multitasking, and who don’t regularly slow down long enough take a breath, ask questions or listen for the answer. Some skip greetings, salutations, punctuation and sentence structure. I’ve had bosses who text at all hours of the day and night, and colleagues rattling off stats on whatever personal milestone, habit or TV series they’re binge-watching now, like doing so is an accomplishment. Co-workers who steadily are “plugged in,” and constantly seeking reassurance, admiration, affirmations are exhausting.
I know some view Boomers like me as rigid and set-in-our-ways. But with our consistency comes depth of experience, too. I know I’m not alone in wondering how this is all going to play out.
Something positive that may come of this is that a new workforce who demands a better work environment, a positive office culture, robust perks and equal pay is sure to benefit all of us.
- This organization defines millennials as the generation aged 21 to 36 in 2017.
- In 2017, 56 million millennials were working or looking for a job — outnumbering 53 million Gen Xers, who made up 33% of the labor force, and 41 million Baby Boomers, who accounted for 25% of the total.
- Bye Bye Boomers: Who will fill your workforce gap?
- According to Gallup, about a third of today’s workforce comes from the 75 million-strong Baby Boom generation.
- The oldest Boomers turn 70 next year and the youngest are in their early 50s.
- More than 44 million of them are still working.
And while a bit extreme, these two clips made me laugh:
What’s been your experience? Can you relate to this post?