Experience vs. Energy

Angela ArgiroBlogLeave a Comment

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). ‘

The Participants:

Katy Varney, Partner – baby boomer

Viviana Bertorelli, Staff Associate – millennial

Roger Shirley, Editorial Director – baby boomer

Thomas Mulgrew, Account Executive – millennial

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.

 My parents think we aren’t as connected as we think we are to what’s actually going on.

 My parents thought more or less the same thing [responding to VB]. They thought my brother and I had it really easy.

Exactly. Older generations always hate on the younger ones.

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 would echo that. It’s a domino effect – we have sharp people working here, we aren’t stabbing each other in the back – so it leads to an environment that allows us to have the best reputation.

 By far the most important things to me are the people and working in a place where you want to come to work in the morning.

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?

What I love most about working with other generations is having a different idea, an energy and a completely different approach – saying “what if we did this?”


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.

Tasking?

To work with other people who have more experience and you know you can count on their advice.

There is an experience and a knowledge and intimacy of how things should be written and word choice and how you structure a story and get your point across quickly.

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?

I feel like we’re not entitled. [Can you hear the baby boomers chuckle as you read this?]

This is the “me” generation; that we spend time on our phones*. I don’t think we’re any more greedy or vain than the previous generation.


That people of my generation are technologically clueless; that’s a real over-generalization. Though some of us are borderline.

I don’t know, because there’s a huge difference between baby boomers. I don’t know how an old hippie is viewed versus an old non-hippie.

*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?

I don’t know, but I think the pendulum always swings. Hippies came out of the generation that only wanted to make money. It always swings back.

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.

They’ll be a more creative generation.

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?

Mine is being on the phone and having a headset on while you’re working. To me, everything about that device is taking you away from community.

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.

 

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