How to Deal as a Millennial in a Baby Boomer's Workplace

Known as “millennials,” us twenty and thirty-somethings are entering the professional workforce and making a place for ourselves, and are projected to account for 40% of workers by 2020. And while we continue to adjust to “office culture” and business attire, we must learn how to adapt despite the generational differences of our baby boomer counterparts at the office.

Speaking generally, the different generations currently in the workforce value different things, and we each have our own strengths and weaknesses. As fresh blood in the office, we may feel as though we are undervalued or misunderstood by our more experienced coworkers.

Below are some tips for making the most of today’s generationally diverse workforce:

Recognize strengths and weaknesses.

Speaking generally, baby boomers and millennials have very different priorities and expectations in the workplace. Millennials typically want flexible hours, casual dress policies, and care more about their job being a “good fit” than just a good pay check. Baby boomers, on the other hand, care less about these “job perks” and set more value on benefits, professional attire, and standard 9 to 5 business hours.

Despite our differences, the key takeaway here is that each generation has its own unique strengths and weaknesses, and it’s important that we learn from each other.

A data summary posted on BusinessInsider.com confirms what we already know: Although millennials adapt well to new technology and know how to effectively “Google” their way out of many problems, we aren’t always perceived as “hard working” or productive.

And while Baby Boomers are highly productive, they aren’t very adaptable or eager to change their ways. We should look to the boomers in the office as mentors, and take after their focused work ethic, and in turn, we can lead by example to showcase beneficial ways to harness technology effectively.

Give and take.

Make a point to establish a mentor/mentee relationship with older employees, and don’t be afraid to teach them some things as well. The fact is, we have a lot to learn from our supervisors, and we know this. Baby boomers know the ropes. They have company contacts, professional relationships, and work skills that we can all learn from.

What’s more, many long-term employees have learned how to effectively balance having children, spouses, and household responsibilities all at once. We may be young and unattached now, but even the single lifestyle can be complicated during a fifty hour work week. Learn from elders, and don’t be afraid to branch out and find a balance that’s right for you.

One thing that we can help baby boomers with? Adapting to change.

The fact is, some older employees are “set in their ways,” and would rather continue a process they’ve been using for 15 years than take the time to learn new ways of doing things. This is where we can help. We went to school to improve our critical thinking skills, and we know countless shortcuts and workarounds. Even shortcuts for Excel and Word can drastically improve productivity, and while we know to instinctively Google a shortcut whenever something seems more complicated than it should be, this isn’t a second-nature habit of most employees. We can take it upon ourselves to show them a few time-saving tips.

Don’t take it personally.

Being the youngest employee in your department can be tough. Older employees may be inclined to doubt your abilities, and you may need to work especially hard to gain their trust and respect as an employee. This may be due to our lack of experience, or it could be the stigma against our generation that paints us as self-centered and entitled. Either way, we shouldn’t take it personally. Work hard, and keep a smile on your face despite the tasks you’re given. Sporting a positive, friendly attitude and demonstrating that you’re a good worker are key to gaining respect. And of course, be open to criticism and advice. That’s what we’re there for.

Although there are countless differences between the different generations in the professional workforce, we are all united by our goal to be successful employees. We may prefer different work schedules and value different perks, but we’re ultimately all working toward finding a balance and fulfillment in our professional lives. Despite our differences (and yes, despite our respective biases against each other) we can all get along.