We live in a nation divided. And no, I’m not talking about political beliefs or gender wars. The latest variable is age. From baby boomers to Gen Z – the next generation on everyone’s radar – we live in fast-moving times, and everyone has an opinion.
The generalized feeling of baby boomers is they want millennials to get off their phones, have face-to-face conversations, and stop being so entitled and lazy. After all, they had to walk to work uphill both ways in their heyday, so it’s only fair.
On the other hand, millennials (myself included) – when taking a brief intermission from scrolling through their Instagram feed to actually do work – ask themselves why baby boomers insist on calling them at work. Wouldn’t a chain of 40 emails be easier and less painful than a 30-second phone call?
Here at MP&F, our staff is 14 percent baby boomers, 24 percent Gen X and 62 percent millennials. The majority of our senior staff is composed of boomers and Gen X’ers, while millennials dominate junior staff levels.
Naturally, there has to be some tension between each generation in the workplace. Right?
On a quest to find out, I polled a few MP&F’ers about their perceptions of the battle between the generations. Boomer vs. Millennial. (Or as MP&F partner Mark McNeely more kindly refers to these generations: Experience vs. Energy). ‘
Q: What did your parents think about your generation?
Broadly speaking, back in the day, there were concerns in some quarters that we were all going to become stoners sitting around listening to rock ‘n’ roll music and hating America. My generation represented an assault on the values and traditions of my parents’ generation, so it made for an interesting dynamic.
I have never heard my mom or my dad in seriousness say “Your generation does this.” They were so superconscious of coming out of the baby boomer era that they didn’t generalize my generation as being lazy or narcissistic because their parents thought they were lazy.
While not exactly novel, each MP&F’er touches on an interesting point. The polarization between generations may feel heightened to us as we’re living in it, but what we’re experiencing is nothing new. With each new generation, there is the perception they have it easier; they don’t have to work as hard; they aren’t upholding the values and standards the previous generation set. Baby boomers felt the same pressure from their parents’ generation millennials feel today.
Q: What’s most important to you about the company you work for?
The importance of diversity because I spent half of my life living in a different country. Now that I’m in Tennessee, it’s the first time I ever felt foreign. I wasn’t really a minority in south Florida, so having that importance of recognizing people’s diversities and not making them seem like a token.
For the company to be well-respected. It means you’re doing a good job, you’ve built a reputation, and it means you’ve hired good people because you can’t do good work without hiring good people.
I was surprised to find these four MP&F’ers all had more in common than we might think (and no one mentioned unlimited vacation days). At the end of the day, we can all agree we want to work for a company that hires people who are both smart and kind, a place where we feel valued, like we’re more than a number.
Q: What do you think is the best asset about the other generation in the workplace?
The millennial generation’s best asset in the workplace is the creativity and the energy and the ability to multitask. At this firm, it’s something everyone has to do, and they grew up multitasking just as a way of life. My generation was very good at mono-tasking.
I’m glad to see we’re all still playing nice and recognizing the varied strengths each individual person and generation brings to the workforce. My colleagues recognize a more diverse company – in terms of both background and skillset – leads to a stronger, more well-rounded company.
Q: What do you think is the biggest misconception about your generation?
That people of my generation are technologically clueless; that’s a real over-generalization. Though some of us are borderline.
*While he does not self-identify as a typical millennial, it should be noted he spent the majority of our 30-minute conversation looking at his phone.
Q: Do you have any predictions about Gen Z?
This is a little joking but about 80 percent serious: I think Generation Z won’t care about what’s fake news and what’s real news as long as it’s entertaining and is tweet-able.
Other than their being more technologically proficient obviously, they are going to have a lot of [insert expletive] to deal with. They have a lot of things coming down the pipe they’re going to have to deal with on a macro scale.
Q: What is your biggest pet peeve about the other generation at work?
No surprise here. Both Roger and Katy’s biggest pet peeve about millennials related to phone usage. Although their takes on phone usage varied; see below.
The disdain and almost psychotic aversion to making a phone call to get information. I’ve seen people spend half an hour doing Google searches trying to find out something that someone on the other end of phone line already knows. Do you have their number? Why don’t you just call?
While their grievances on phones varied, the core issue they both brought up is how phones are making millennials more disconnected from their peers and the world around them. Speaking with someone on the phone and talking to your co-workers in person help build a sense of community.
In fact, our office is designed to help facilitate community amongst colleagues. Junior staffers don’t have cubicles or offices. Instead, we work in an open office space. The partners’ goal with this floor plan is to encourage us to talk to each other, bounce ideas off one another, and develop strong bonds and relationships.
Surprisingly, the millennials had nothing bad to say about baby boomers. Whether it’s because the millennials feared retaliation from senior staff or the baby boomers are the superior colleagues, I’ll let you be the judge.
When I first set out to write this blog, I expected heated debates that would make even the most recent presidential election blush in shame. What I found instead were insightful, thought-provoking conversations with some of MP&F’s brightest minds – junior and senior staff alike.
Our differences should make us stronger, not weaker. Creative differences, unique perspectives and varied life experiences are vital in any company that wants to become or remain on the cutting edge.
MP&F celebrates these differences. We welcome those who want to shake up the status quo. I’m proud to work at a company that thrives on and cultivates the energy and experience of its employees.