February 3, 2019

Dave Sweet

Advice for blending different generations at work

The Rolling Stones rose to popularity in the U.S. in 1964 with their first top ten hit. To this day, the Stones still sell out 70,000-seat stadiums to mostly Baby Boomers.

Fast forward to 2014 when the Chainsmokers emerged onto the pop music scene with their first major hit. They too sell out arenas with twenty thousand (mostly) Millennials singing and cheering …just like Stones’ concerts.

Baby Boomers (born 1946-1964) and Millennials (born 1977-1995) compose the two largest groups in professional settings. There are differences among these generations due to life experiences and upbringing but learning that there is common ground is key to a successful workplace.

Several major events in the ‘60’s and ‘70’s influenced Baby Boomers. Through their political efforts, Baby Boomers helped end the Vietnam War. They saw great societal change through the Civil Rights movement and hard-won advances for women in educational and career opportunities. The moon landing proved that through hard work and collaboration, anything could be accomplished. However, in the early 1970’s, Nixon’s failed presidency caused many to lose faith in government and big institutions.

Given those influences, experts have found that Boomers value loyalty to career and company, seek personal growth, enjoy teamwork, gain personal gratification from work success and expect to compete for advancement in the workplace.

The major events that have shaken Millennials include 9/11, the continuous war on terrorism, and the near-constant experience of mass shootings since 1999’s Columbine high school massacre. Millennials are the first generation to be raised in child-centric families, sheltered from negative outcomes and they are the first generation to be considered “native” social media users.

These experiences have led Millennials to come to the workplace as natural networkers, loving to share information, generally, not loyal to career or company, preferring to be coached, not supervised, and wanting flexible pathways to advancement. They crave work-life balance.

These workplace values are different but just like a 2019 Rolling Stones concert experience is similar to a Chainsmokers show, these two generations have much in common. Members of both groups want to do impactful work, will work hard to achieve goals, and want to contribute to shared success. How do we build on that foundation and work better together?

Rolling Stones (Baby Boomers) Fans – Millennials see the workplace as less stable than you do. As workplace managers, how can you show them how to build a solid professional base? For you to have career success, understand you need Millennials to flourish just as much as they need your guidance. From their upbringing, many Millennials are addicted to recognition. Have you used this to created recognition opportunities?

Chainsmokers (Millennials) Fans – Most Boomers believe loyalty and hard work pays off. You don’t need to match their attitudes on this, but loyalty and hard work are still recognized and rewarded in most organizations. Don’t assume Boomers are stuck in the past and can’t change. While there are exceptions, most Boomers know today’s pace of change requires them to adapt quickly. In a spirit of partnership, help Boomers to adapt. Being promoted usually requires more than just having the required skills and technical talents. Typically, you need to be good at collaborating, inspiring trust, and having insightful knowledge of best practices and the organization’s customer base. Boomers can help guide you in these areas.

While multiple generations are working side-by-side with vastly different backgrounds and upbringings, there is common ground to be shared. Understanding where someone comes from and extending an “arm” to support growth/change is needed from all groups to foster success.


Dave Sweet is the president of automatik an award-winning training and events firm based in Phoenix. Sweet and his team among other services, lead workshops to improve workplace skills like public speaking, meeting planning and execution and professional etiquette. For more information on these classes and the company, visit automatik.com