Baby Boomers vs. Millennials: The Difference in their Work Ethic

Take a look at the people surrounding you in your office. Chances are, there are representatives of more than one generation. While everyone there shares common goals of achieving success in their career and for the organization, individuals from different generations may approach these goals differently. Below, we analyze the differences between millennials and baby boomers in the workforce, and how you, as their manager, can best work with these differences.  

The Millennial Employee 

Millennials grew up in a time of technological advancements in a hyper-connected society (often attributed to social media and its ability to connect everyone in an instant). Generally recognized as individuals that were born between 1980 and 2000, millennials are a generation influenced by digital media. Their professional lives mirror the values they grew up on and integrate the knowledge they learned from parents, teachers, and news outlets.  

With this being said, millennials in the workforce value a business that utilizes digital solutions and offers immediate communication. This group also strives to find a job that they enjoy and one that aligns with their passions and goals. While they are excited about job opportunities, they can quickly lose interest and burnout in a position that lacks challenges and growth. These qualities are often attributed to the generation’s need for immediate gratification (a product of the era they grew up in) and desire to serve a greater purpose. Millennials are entrepreneurial in spirit and long to share their ideas or goals and be heard. 

In addition, millennials require nearly constant feedback and appreciate managers that provide advice, criticism, goals, and deadlines. They want to be recognized for the work they do, since they were raised on the idea that jobs come and go—a result of an unstable economy—and may fear layoffs for virtually no clear reason.  

Baby Boomers in the Workforce  

The baby boomer generation, otherwise known as individuals that were born between 1946 and 1964, grew up in a post-war era in which they were promised the “American Dream.” In their professional lives, baby boomers are accustomed to working at one company for, in many situations, as long as possible. They value stability and commitment and feel more comfortable in a structured system of hierarchy—where you earn a promotion and a raise by dedicating years of employment to an organization.  

They learned to communicate in a vastly different way than those of the millennial generation. Rather than interacting digitally or through social media, baby boomers learned to value face-to-face communication. In contrast to millennials, too, most baby boomers don’t appreciate constant feedback or overbearing managers; instead, they prefer to be given a task and left to do it. 

In the case of many baby boomers in the workforce, they agree that time and experience should earn you authority, so that the longer you serve an organization, the better ranking you deserve. They are often wary of working with or managing employees in the millennial generation, who commonly associates contributions and hard work with promotions and raises.  

Leading a Team of Both Generations 

It’s not uncommon to experience conflict between baby boomer and millennial employees, as the values they were raised on and the work ethic they’ve instilled in their professional lives have clear differences. The baby boomer worker may be skeptical of a millennial new hire, as baby boomers have been in the work world for decades as opposed to millennials. Nonetheless, when the ideals and work ethics of both generations are merged into one, the collaboration can improve an organization. Combine a millennial employee’s knack for social media with a baby boomer’s depth of knowledge about the target audience from hands-on experience, and you’ll produce a strategic duo that’ll create your next digital marketing campaign.  

Managers need to strategically merge the two generations’ skills to mold a stronger team and a more productive, successful organization. To learn more about the gap between generations and what you can do as a manager to decrease disparities, reach out to our Human Resources experts. 


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