Why baby boomers and millennials must learn to work together

As it has always been, people of all ages need to be able to work together

David Rigby
David Rigby - Special to Al Arabiya English
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As it has always been, people of all ages need to be able to work together. In the 1940s, the word “teenager” was born. For the first time, teenagers had money and no longer wanted to look and behave like their parents. The baby boomers born after the second world war were the next generation of teenagers. Where are those troublesome teenagers now? Some are still working as they cannot afford to retire.

Baby boomers were brought up to respect elders and did what they were told. They were never told they were good in case they got big headed, but as children they were allowed the right to roam and discover things for themselves and spent a lot of time outside. Some stayed in their first job until retirement.

Millennials are those born either after 1982 or 1992 depending on which definition you choose. They rightly believe that elders need to earn respect - rather than demand it - and question everything in order to understand why. They were always told how good they were, whether or not they were. But as children they were never allowed the right to roam – maybe allowed out on their one to the end of the street, otherwise they were driven everywhere. They stay in with their electronic toys and don’t see the point of being outside because they have never investigated it.

To an extent, these observations are clichés. All depends of relative affluence and ethnicity. And generations X Y and Z sit in between.

Boomers would start work, at least in the West, at 14 with minimal qualifications or maybe 21 if they were one of the few who went to university. Millennials need to be educated to death whether to work as baristas or barristers. Proper jobs, if they ever get one, can start in the mid 20s or even 30s.

Depending on background, the lucky millennials were brought up to challenge. “Because we have always done it this way” is not sufficient. Millennials have no idea what a shock it is for boomers to be challenged. Millennials are also slow to catch on that they are not as good as they were always told they were. boomers, quite rightly, expect someone to earn the right to “give feedback.” Millennials just challenge whether or not they have earnt that right.

“At any given age, you’re getting better at some things, you’re getting worse at some other things, and you’re at a plateau at some other things. There’s probably not one age at which you’re peak on most things, much less all of them,” says Joshua Hartshorne, a postdoc in MIT’s Department of Brain and Cognitive Sciences.

Erudite boomers can forget that they didn’t always have the knowledge to ease the social wheels skill. They don’t recall not having the social skills and experience but they were probably good at whatever technology was available, and are often competent with the technology when they need to be. Having grasped the technology to enable them to say it – at least they have something to say.

Boomers can learn from millennials:

• Know what technology is for and then how to use it.
• How to work collaboratively
• How to voice opinions and challenge on topics they are not experts in
• That they have a lot to offer, like the boomers did when they were 20
• How to communicate using technology
• How to innovate and be enthusiastic
• To review their own life experiences and see how it sounds to the millennials.
• To listen and learn.

Millennials can learn from boomers:

• Like old songs get recycled and youth only knows the new versions, ideas to come in and out of fashion, and the boomers can advise what happened last time. And that new ideas can be rebadged old ideas.
• General experience of life. boomers have leant, if they did new things each year for the last 30 years.
• Get over the fear of face to face conversation
• What to find out about. – given the infinite info on the web, focus is essential.
• Most major crises are just paper blowing in the wind
• To listen and learn.

Different age groups bring different skills to the work place. Generally, depending on age individuals are better and worse at specific skills. So like other forms of diversity it is better to have multi age workers in a team.

A millennial can teach you how to drive new technology, and a Boomer can help you chose where to drive to. Each is dependent on the other.

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