In a way, Baby Boomers caught a break when the economy fell apart five years ago: Millennials were just starting to assert themselves in the workplace, and then suddenly jobs were scarce and for many young people there was no workplace. So we all went to meetings and logged long hours at the office for another half decade, just the way Boomers like it.
“We were back in Boomer land with Boomer rules,” says Haydn Shaw, author of Sticking Points: How to get 4 generations working together in the 12 places they come apart. “The reset worked in their favor. But it’s starting to change again.”
Shaw is an expert on cultural differences at the office. New generations all experience the same resistance in the same basic pattern, he says. For the first five years at work their style and preferences are ignored. There aren’t enough workers this age to matter. The second five years, Shaw says, their numbers increase but older generations have the positions of authority and try to “fix” the the young workers.
After 10 years, a generation’s numbers are so big that older workers give in and try to cut a deal. The boss may not like flip-flops at the office but supervisors become willing to tolerate this style of dress if the work gets done–and that’s pretty much where we are today.
By Shaw’s definition Millennials, who number 80 million and are an even larger generation than the Boomers, are now aged 11 to 31. That means the oldest have been in the workplace for about 10 years. The last five years don’t really count because jobs have been so scarce that young people have not been able to assert their style. But with a recovery in hand and boomers starting to retire Millennials are beginning to get their way….
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