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Building a Bridge, Creating a Bond Between Baby Boomers and Millennials

BrainstormingThere is no surprise there is a generational gap between those in upper management positions and those first entering the workforce. In truth, I had to look up my generation because I wasn’t sure to which I belonged. According to Samantha Raphelson a digital news intern at npr.org, anyone who was born between 1980 and 2000 is a part of “Generation Y” or the better-known name, “Millennials.” The majority of those in upper management positions are a part of the “baby boomer” generation. The gap between these two age groups can and does raise many conflicts in the workplace.

Just recently, I encountered a generational gap issue with my supervisor, a baby boomer, over the way a task was being completed. I developed an Excel Spreadsheet that allowed me to input numbers which in turn accurately calculated the totals without having to do any actual math yourself. The spreadsheet quickly produced the results and there were fewer margins of error. My supervisor’s preferred method was doing the math by hand. My supervisor said before that he didn’t “trust” the math calculated by computers because he couldn’t see the work. My trust and confidence in technology greatly differed from my supervisor. Once my supervisor and I sat down, and I showed him how my spreadsheet worked he agreed that it was more efficient for calculating the final totals.

The comfort level when using technology is just one characteristic that differs between baby boomers and millennials. I compiled a list below using two articles by Sandy Kane, a legal careers expert, to outline the features and variances between the Baby Boomer and Millennial generations.

                 Baby Boomers                                                                                      Millennials

√ Focuses primarily on work                                                                    √ Balances work and family

√ Strong work ethic and loyal to their employer                                   √ Self-assured and determined

√ Believes you must earn your position in the workforce                  √ Appreciates constructive criticism and advice


How can we bridge the gap between these two generations to diminish or prevent conflict in the workplace?

I think the best way is to cultivate understanding about the differences between the generations instead of digging in one’s heels to who is right or wrong. In the example of technology, my millennial generation often forgets that using computers comes as second nature to us because we learned how to use them from the time we were little. The baby boomers learned a different methodology for doings things. Considering and learning how to use computers, social media or other technological applications requires changing and adapting one’s views or attitudes; something with which many Baby Boomers struggle. One path to cultivating understanding is for the organization and its upper management to ask questions and get curious about specific issues each generation may be having. Another possibility to bridge the gap and create a bond is to host a town hall meeting where management and the staff share experiences and together, outline workplace expectations.

It is also important to recognize that each generation has its benefits and vulnerabilities. The baby boomers have historical workplace knowledge including past challenges, problems and ineffective work methods the Millennials are unaware of when they first come onboard. Millennials bring a new and fresh perspective, new technologies and attitudes to the workplace that commonly experienced by baby boomers. In the experience I had with my supervisor, he taught me how to solve the math out by hand. I was thankful he had shown me this because shortly after, we lost electrical power and I was unable to use my computer or the spreadsheet. At that moment, I saw the benefits and appreciated my supervisor’s approach.


Abigail Clark- M.S Negotiation and Conflict Management



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