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Home > Blog: In the Workplace > The Workplace is No Place for a Generational Divide

The Workplace is No Place for a Generational Divide

I once read a controversial blog post that was likely intended to rile readers more than make a point. The idea the writer wanted to force feed to older readers was that any work task they can do, the 20-something members of Gen Y ("Millennials") can do better.

The post riled up enough people that more than 200 readers registered comments in a matter of days. Taken as a whole, they weren't pretty.

The writer made the following assertions:

  • Gen Y is more productive because they can gather information faster.
  • Gen Y is better at communicating.
  • Gen Y has better career mobility (i.e., they're more adept at job hopping) while Baby Boomers aren't as comfortable with it.
  • Gen Y turns to entrepreneurship when the going gets tough in the job market, even if it means moving back home with their Baby Boomer parents.

Well, I'll add my comment to all this right here: What a load of generalized, stereotypical horse dung!

If it were taken as fact, then - what the heck - let's stop the world from spinning and kick all the Boomers into orbit! Work will be so much better for everyone with staff flitting around from job to job, everyone conducting job interviews via email or texting, and giving birth to lots of new small companies while their "CEOs" text mom and dad with their stellar communication skills: "YO RENTS: WENZ DINR 2NITE?" (Of course, it'll be hard for the ‘rents to respond since they'll be floating somewhere above the ozone layer.)

"Can't we all just get along?" Our society is polarized enough with political viewpoints. We don't need to feel segregated and polarized in the workplace as well. For instance, the writer boasts of Gen Y's superior command of technology, as if Gen Xers and Boomers scream in horror every time they see a laptop or an iPhone. Puh-leeze...they were the users as well as the inventors of the first computers!

If only the generational divide were that clear-cut. But it's not. While I've seen Millennials who are not as addicted to technology as others, I've also seen Gen Xers and Boomers who are as technologically with it, if not even more so. The better message should be how each generation can learn from the others. So, here's how I would rewrite those four assertions:

  • Gen Y is more adept at using information technology, and can teach their older colleagues how to use it better.
  • Gen Y can communicate, but communication can only be effective if you can be clear with everyone, no matter how old they are. At the same time, Boomers can communicate the wisdom of work that comes with age and experience.
  • Gen Y may have better career mobility now, but when they settle down and start families as they age, they'll want more stability - just like their parents do today.
  • When the going gets tough in the job market, you do what you gotta do, even it means starting your own business. Just be sure you can pay the rent or mortgage while you're in the startup phase.

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