Being a Millennial and Working with "Older Folks"

Being a Millennial in the workplace can be a rather interesting experience. Often times, we work with “Older Folks” aka Gen-X’ers and Baby Boomers during our careers. This type of work relationship may be problematic for some and rewarding for others. Fortunately, I have had the opportunity to work with each of these groups at one point in my career. I have gain some valuable insight along the way and have learned a few lessons that have been beneficial for my career.

Researchers say Millennials are lazy, tech savvy, entrepreneurial, and not loyal to any company. When it comes to Gen X’ers, they are problem solvers, values work-life balance, and dislikes authority in the workplace. And as for Baby Boomers, they are said to be hard workers, set in their ways, not tech savvy, and very loyal to their employer. Are these characteristics true???

When I worked at JP Morgan Chase (JPMC), I had my first experience working directly with someone that was at least 10 – 15 years older than me (aka Gen X’ers). I remember when I started at the bank, all the typical naïve questions that a Millennial would ask themselves went through my head.

“Will they treat me like a child?” “Will they trust me to work independently?” “Will they respect my input?” “Are they good with technology?” “Will they be receptive to change?” “Will we have anything in common?” “Will you be able to work together, despite our age difference?”

My experience at JPMC really showed me how generational gaps can lead to relationship pitfalls in the workplace. Take my manager at that time for example. She was an older woman who was really good at her job, having been in the Auditing field for years. When I interviewed for the position, she came off as a very nice and genuine person that was sincere about my development and success at the bank. So I was pumped for the opportunity and trusted her to guide me while I was at JPMC.

Unfortunately, my “work honeymoon” didn’t last that long!!! After only 4 weeks on the job, everything changed with her. That “nice and caring” person turned into a complete douche bag. It seemed like every time my manager had an opportunity to make things difficult for me she made sure it happened. There were times she would give me the side eye when I would go to her cube to ask a question. She also took pleasure in showing me up in front of everyone during client and team meetings. She always gave me a boat load of review comments. She even put me on a performance improvement plan (which I didn’t need to be on) where I had to get a performance update from the managers that I work with each week.

Initially, I thought I wasn’t adequately equipped for the job and actually contemplated quitting. However, as time went on, it became very evident that it wasn’t me, but it was my manager. To me, she was threatened by the younger auditors (aka Millennials) in the department and thought that would ultimately impact her job security, since she was on the latter half of her career. So I was the “lucky” one that she used to demonstrate the value she brought to the department, which was at the cost of my development and my reputation during my time at the bank.

Question: Have you ever came across a Gen X'er like my old manager? How did it turn out? Were they receptive to be more welcoming of Millennials despite the ever changing work environment? Or did they continue to be set in their ways?

With my current job at Columbus City Schools (CCS), I am the youngest one in the department and one of the youngest Administrators in the District. In my role, I have the opportunity to work directly with people my parents’ age or older, which I don’t mind at all. One of the things that I really like about my work relationship with the Baby Boomers at my job is that they are very knowledgeable in various areas and are willing to share their knowledge with me. So when the opportunity presents itself, I try to pick their brain and obtain as much information as I can, whether if it is work related or even something that I can apply in my personal life.

However, by working with Baby Boomers, there are some challenges that come up from time to time because of the generational gap. Two of the main challenges that I have encountered is their reluctance to use technology in the workplace and their opposition to enhance outdated processes and methodologies. Although we have these challenges, I am confident that we will overcome them and make the necessary adjustments that will be beneficial for all.

Question: Have you encountered similar or different challenges working with Baby Boomers? How did you work through those challenges? Were they receptive to the proposed change that would get rid of the challenges?

As I reflect back on each of my experiences, I have learned that we are all wired differently and we all see work from various perspectives. At times, those various perspectives can cause stress and can be very detrimental to one’s work relationship with another. However, with the many skills and talents that Millennials and “Older Folks” offer, I think we all can be successful in the workplace despite the generational gap. Just imagine a work environment where you have a Millennial with their tech savviness and entrepreneurial mind, coupled with a Gen X’er that bring their managerial and problem skills to the table, and on top of that, you have a Baby Boomer with endless historical knowledge that brings a hardworking vibe to the team. Man that would be such a dope dynamic that I would love to be a part of.