It’s been nearly two decades since the dawn of Y2K. The new millennium brought with it predictions of universal chaos and collapse but arrived with barely a ripple.
By the afternoon of January 1, 2000, people were laughing at the hysteria of the day before.
Today, as we approach 2020, another climactic event is not only on the horizon, but is in process right now. It’s a global tidal wave with far reaching consequences. It’s the age of the Millennials and the rise of Gen Z in the workforce.
While technology advances at nano speed, Millennials and Gen Z are disrupting the corporate environment. It’s no longer ‘business as usual,’ it’s now ‘uncharted territory.’
This wave of change can be terrifying for older generations who may feel overwhelmed and hopelessly left behind. The old joke of parents needing their children to decipher the V.C.R. is no longer funny. That was simply the writing on the wall predicting the current business world.
The fact is that technology, smart devices, artificial intelligence and virtual / augmented reality is part and parcel of how business now operates. It’s no surprise that Millennials, who not only understand, but invent this technology, are moving into management and supervisory positions, with Gen Z employees following on their heels. Many Baby Boomers are finding themselves subordinate to bosses younger than their children.
Older employees are naturally often resentful of much younger bosses. Millennial managers often feel that their Baby Boomer subordinates don’t respect them. This reversed authority can result in difficult, tense working relationships.
Here are a few suggestions to help Baby Boomers, Millennials and Gen Z coworkers avoid friction and achieve productivity:
- Baby Boomers:Stay abreast of technology advancements by being a life long learner. If you don’t feel comfortable with the technology ask for help from someone who is comfortable with it – even if they are younger than you are. Millennials: Don’t patronize or belittle Baby Boomer employees who may not be as comfortable with technology as you are. Recognize that they have acquired experience and skills over years and that these can benefit younger employees. Solution: Organize a voluntary tutorial session on a regular basis where younger employees help older employees understand how to make the most of the technology used in the organization. In return, ask Baby Boomers to hold tutorials for younger employees to share experience and skills that will help shorten their learning curve. Summary: Look to other generations to supply the experience and expertise you lack while you reciprocate by sharing your experience and expertise with them. It makes sense to acknowledge each others strengths and collaborate to leverage them.
- Forget About Work / Life Balance. With the impact and reach of technology, work is as close as a smart device and therefore part of life as a whole. On the other hand, family and personal obligations are important and will at times intrude on traditional work hours. Solution: The only way the two ends of the spectrum can peacefully co-exist is when this is acknowledged and employees are afforded the autonomy and flexibility to manage both work and personal obligations in a way that allows both to coexist without friction. Summary: Trusting employees to handle autonomy and flexibility in a responsible manner will go a long way to defusing otherwise stressful situations and prevent resentments developing. Mutual respect and willingness to cooperate and collaborate for the achievement of a shared goal allows all generations in the work force to feel that they are an active and important contributor and that their voice is being heard.
- Respect: cultivate a culture of respect. This is especially important between bosses and employees of all ages.
With the rise of Millennial management, a new corporate culture is being shaped and driven by different motives than status, income and promotion. Millennials and Gen Z employees want to do more than ‘get the job done’ or ‘increase achievement the bottom line.’ There’s nothing wrong with those goals, however today’s employees want to know that they’re making an impact and that their actions are leaving the world a better place.
If we can combine Baby Boomer’s experience, Millennial’s technology expertise and Gen Z ideals, the workplace of today can be inspiring, exciting and reach hereto uncharted frontiers of success. Welcome to the office revolution!