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Boomers: Want to Stay Relevant at Work? Embrace Millennials

Boomers: Want to Stay Relevant at Work? Embrace Millennials

leeLee McEnany Caraher
Lee is an acclaimed communications strategist known for her practical solutions to big problems. She’s the CEO of a thriving agency Double Forte. She’s an author, a speaker, a trainer, and a doer, and she’s here to share what she’s learned the hard way to help reduce the drama in the workplace. She blogs at

For most of us Boomers (I qualify as the youngest of Boomers), it’s not just a question of “getting along with” Millennials. The question is increasingly, “How do we stay relevant in today’s job market” or “How will I stay gainfully employed for the next 10-15 years preparing for retirement?” or “How do I report to someone so many years younger than me?”

I believe the key for Boomers to staying relevant and valuable in the workplace NOW and in the future, is to be known for working well with Millennials (and GenXers).

What’s it take to be known for working well with Millennials?

For some people, nothing – you’ve got it.

For many many others, it takes couple of small shifts and a better understanding of your younger colleagues. I learned this the hard way. Bottom line, we need to appreciate our younger teammates for the gifts they bring to the party, while also helping (read mentoring) them to reach their own goals.

NPR started a new series yesterday by Millennial reporters called #NewBoom. Take a listen or read this great first story, “Why You Should Start Taking Millennials Seriously.” Reporter Selena Simmons-Duffin has a great point, “Because millennials look different en masse than generations past, the future is going to look different too. They’ve already led the country to massive shifts in opinion on social issues over the past decade.”

So what can we do RIGHT NOW to start building a positive reputation among Millennials, because most of us are going to need them before we retire?

5 tips for Boomers Who Want To Stay Relevant

  1. Understand the Millennial Mindset – Don’t just accept the narrative that Millennials are entitled. I believe the people who are called entitled have been conditioned by a culture of “everyone wins,” constant praise, rewards for merely showing up (regardless of participation or contribution), grade inflation (do not get me started) and helicopter parenting that mitigates children’s ability to learn and correct.I don’t think Millennials want anything different from their older co-workers; rather they’ve been conditioned to say so. Millennials are change makers, they’re contributors, they’re capable – bottom line they show up confident. And, in the cases where Millennials are working for Boomers (it’s the other way around in lots of places), it’s up to Boomers to take all that energy, channel it and learn from it.
  2. Let them contribute – Raised to know they matter in a flat world where everyone is one click away from anyone and any information, Millennials expect to have more input into their workday than their Boomer or GenXer coworkers ever did. Let them. Know that providing opportunities for input where it’s possible is a key factor not just in retaining Millennials in your workplace, but gaining trust. Ask for their opinion and you’ll get some great answers.
  3. Show them why their work matters – I heard over and over from virtually every Millennial I interviewed for my book that they weren’t interested in work that didn’t “matter.” Yes, that’s naive – who employs people for work that doesn’t matter? At the same time, it just takes a few minutes to explain why the work matters and how their presence impacts the team and the task at hand.
  4. Don’t hold back – Set expectations respectfully and clearly, early and reinforce them often. Don’t assume anyone else has the same “should know that” list as you do. Take the time to spell out expected results, deadlines, dependencies, etc. before the work gets started. Ask for input on “How can we make this work?” or “How can we maximize results?” at the beginning of a project. If you have certain hours you expect people to be available, tell them – it’s hardly fair to tell someone at month three that they’ve been coming in late every day for 90 days when you didn’t tell them when they needed to be in. After all, they can’t see you in the office at 8 if they get to the office at 9.
  5. Get a Millennial Mentor – We can learn a lot from our younger brethren. If you don’t want an official Millennial Mentor, take a few to lunch and find out what they’re interested in, how they consume media, how they view the world. Read what they read. Get onto Instagram and Twitter to experience how information flows. Put on their glasses for a while to get a better sense of their viewpoint. It will enrich your work, help you understand and make you a better boss or teammate or employee.

It will keep you relevant.

Note: The views and opinions expressed are solely those of the author and does not necessarily reflect the views held by Inc42, its creators or employees. Inc42 is not responsible for the accuracy of any of the information supplied by guest bloggers.


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