Corner Office-R-E-S-P-E-C-T, Find Out What It Means to Me
(Boomer): Hello, how are you today?
: Hey, I’m trying to better understand your generation—your goals, what’s important to you. The stereotypes about people born from 1982 through 2000 range from you being the brightest bunch of do-gooders in modern history to being self-absorbed slackoffs who value socializing with your friends more than your job, wear flip-flops everywhere, and are unable to communicate without a BlackBerry or an iPhone. So, would you help me get a clearer picture of who you are?
: Do you mean “I don’t know”? Or do you mean it really isn’t important what I think or whether I understand you?
: “What you see is what you get” is a saying that’s been around a lot longer than either of us has, my friend. And what I see is a wide generation gap that will become a huge chasm if we don’t learn how to communicate with each other. We need to understand each other’s expectations and differences so we can work better together. This isn’t a small matter: In four years, you Millennials will account for nearly half the employees in the world. So, let’s start. If I were your boss, what would you expect from me?
: Work that means something, so that my life isn’t a CWOT.
: I don’t want your work to feel like a complete waste of time either. So maybe something I could do better is break down departmental silos in our company and communicate our strategic plan in a way that makes clear how your contributions are important to the entire company’s strategy and goals. Would that make sense?
: You’re welcome. You know, this apparent addiction to the Internet, cell phones, e-mail, texting, and social media instead of just talking with us face to face makes my generation think that your generation doesn’t really value our knowledge or experience . . . like our lives have been a CWOT.
: What do I know? Well, there are a lot of articles and advice out there for Baby Boomers about how to work with you Millennials, but I’ve yet to see a single article advising Millennials about how to learn from us Baby Boomers. If they’re not circulating in social media, you seem to dismiss ideas as ancient history and therefore obsolete. But there’s still a lot of value in Baby Boomers’ knowledge about how to do business, or perhaps how not to do business.
: Maybe, or maybe you only think you’ve been there, done that. It’s said that because of technology, your generation has learned at a rate several times faster than mine. But while you’re much more comfortable and savvy with technology, we tend to be more methodical and deliberative in our approach to problem solving. By the way (or BTW, as you would say), maybe if you opened up more to learning from us, the knowledge you gain by Googling anything you don’t know firsthand could be enhanced through our practical experiences. Just a thought (or JAT; I think I’m catching on to this!).
: Not a bad idea, but TTTT.
: You’re right, these things take time. And some things in this world are better after gaining them through patience and sacrifice, rather than instant gratification.
: You mean TNSTAAFL?
: There’s no such thing as a free lunch? I suppose that’s what I’m talking about, but not entirely. The Baby Boomers now leading most U.S. companies will be retiring soon and riding off into the sunset. It’s my hope that before we land in the glue factory, you hear our stories about the blood, sweat, and tears we put into these companies to make them what they are today; about the sacrifices we’ve made to get to where we are. Then you might appreciate our passion for what we do, what we believe, and what we have built over the years—which may help you to make those same sacrifices, too, when it’s necessary.
: But I don’t trust institutions. Why should I sacrifice anything for them?
: Time and maturity will show you that institutions, including corporations, are simply made up of people, some of whom make mistakes, but most of whom are good, honest people. Individuals who make headlines for their bad behavior don’t represent the institutions as a whole. It’s true that our generation was known as the “Me” generation, meaning we focused too much on ourselves and not enough on others. As a result, some of us made huge mistakes by becoming greedy and self-indulgent. So, we may be able to help you learn from our mistakes. To borrow an old Latin proverb, “A wise man learns by the mistakes of others, a fool by his own.”
: Okay, FWM.
: It’s fine with me, too, if you see ways to make these institutions better. That’s what your generation seems to be good at. Some generational experts say you are the most socially conscious generation since the 1960s. But my generation needs to see that you also have some humility and good basic values about providing exceptional service to customers and respecting decision-making hierarchies and honest, ethical behavior. It’s these basic values that build the foundation of good business.
: I’ll show you that I have values when you show me that you value me.
: So you want me to give you more feedback about how you’re doing at your job? I can do that. And I’ll do a better job of creating a road map for your training and your career. I’ll also solicit your input more often so that you feel engaged and valued. Sound good?
: How about me? Well, R-E-S-P-E-C-T is more than a song by Aretha Franklin!
: Thanks, I laughed out loud when I wrote it, too. So, we’d appreciate more respect and more willingness to learn from our experiences. For a lot of Boomers, our work has been our life, and we’ve had to make an effort to balance that with our personal lives. What we do is who we are. Let us mentor you and spend time with you over a cup of coffee or lunch now and then. Our experience, knowledge, values, and sacrifices could help you see a bigger and perhaps more complete picture of the world.
: We’re already working in a global economy. How can the picture get any bigger?
: Maybe you’ll be able to see the world through your heart, too, instead of your head and your analysis of the facts and numbers. Maybe you’ll see the value in sticking with a company to improve it, instead of jumping at the next opportunity that someone texts you about. Your generation is creating companies built on metrics with fly-by-the-seat-of-your-pants management. When the generation after you enters the work force, who’s going to want to work for you?
: No, you’ve got to be kidding yourself if you don’t see that you’re missing a great opportunity when you dismiss the knowledge base stored under the gray hairs around you. Just try to engage in real person-to-person communication more often with us. Maybe if I can teach you something about business, you can teach me the difference between a tweet and a text.
: <3 LD.
: Later, dude? Well, if I’m going to meet you halfway, I guess I can let you call me a “dude.” But what does that sideways heart mean? Is that like “sincerely”?
: Yeah, GTG.
: Okay, I’ve “got to go,” too. I’m going to pick up a pair of flip-flops and an iPod tonight on my way home from the office.