I was explaining search engine optimization for the 5th time to my Baby Boomer boss when he turned to his computer to check his emails for the 5th time while I was talking.
“Uh huh…” he yawned. Somebody knocked on the door. “Come in.”
Another staff person had a question and he held his hand up to me to stop talking.
“Can you come back in 20 minutes?”
I sighed, nodded. This was happening all the time, and not just at this job. It seemed I had the skill set to be admired, but not to be learned from. I was being ignored and disrespected, and I didn’t know what to do about it.
I am a self-taught marketing professional, and a lifelong writer. I’ve built my business brick-by-brick, hand-shake by hand-shake, some would say, the ‘old fashion way.’ I spent a bunch of money on an education, but spend even more time self-educating online, learning from videos, books and blogs on how to make my business better, how to BE better. I am also just barely under the wire as generation Millennial, though it’s hard for me to relate to some of the defining traits that older generations like to use to brand us. Instead, I cling to the traits that make us sound awesome; self-starting, game-changing, disrupting.
In my experience as a solo-preneur as well as somebody who has spent a fair amount of time in the office world, the generational differences are blindingly clear. Millennials and Baby Boomers and Generation Xers can’t seem to find a flow in working together. It destroys businesses and relationships. There are few opportunities for mentorship and absolutely no room for promotion. The situations are uncomfortable, rude, career-altering. But why?
From what I can tell, it’s a clash of everybody deciding to not work together.
Boomers don’t want to mentor.
Xers don’t want to relate.
Millennials don’t want to wait.
And it throws the business world into chaos. The extreme lack of collaboration is clear, and businesses and careers suffer.
Boomers hold onto jobs long after they should have moved on.
Xers stay in the job just to pay the bills but don’t engage.
Millennials move on and bounce from job to job.
It comes from lack of empathy. Nobody seems to want to remember what it feels like to be a new grad, desperate for a chance to learn and be led. Nobody seems to want to believe that they too, will get older and perhaps be way wiser than they are right now.
Generational collaboration could be an excellent way for all of us to learn from each other. I know it happens, but I’m not sure where outside of the entrepreneurial space. Innovative companies should pick up on the wealth of knowledge provided by everyone, and create a brain-bank of ideas and mentor/mentee relationships that could actually build their business. The only way it will work is if the employees respect each other. It has to start from both ends of the spectrum, a trickle-down from leadership and a bounce-up from the entry-level. I know it’s possible, because I have friends and mentors of all ages. What makes it work is that we want to work together and celebrate each other’s successes.
Each generation needs to swallow their pride.
Acknowledge somebody else’s skills and history or innate talent and learn from them. Guide them. Give a hand up instead of a push back. Respect will only build businesses, retain employees, and give people the space they need to grow.