Scroll Top

Millennials and Boomers: Making Music at Work Together


Facing the Millennial Music

I know for certain that baby boomers and millennials, in literal terms, almost always listen to different music. These differences in musical preferences are stark in many cases and are even analogous for the differences between the two generations in the workplace. But it is quite possible that, working together, these two generations can make great music together as coworkers.

Workplace Harmony

Making music and being in harmony require two things: a willingness to think like the other person and the desire to build a meaningful business relationship with a person from the other generation. Let’s start by trying to understand the differences between baby boomers and millennials.

For starters, the generations see work differently, and last week’s blog addressed that reality. The other 3 differences are:

  • They view technology differently.
  • They build and view relationships differently.
  • They were raised differently.

Turning Technological Differences into Successes

Let’s talk technology. Many baby boomers use technology and are quite adept at email, making calls on their cell phones and using the internet to search for information. They use the technology they know in a utilitarian way.

Millennials, on the other hand, use technology for all of those functions, but to many millennials, their technology is the hub of their social existence. They text their friends even if they are sitting in a room together; they rely on Facebook, Pinterest, Instagram, Twitter and YouTube for news and communication. They use technology in a way that helps them know where they’re going, where to eat, and how to purchase things at discounts. They are constantly looking for as many other innovative technologies as they can.

This younger generation takes pride in the number of FB friends and Twitter and Instagram followers they have. The biggest difference, though, is how reliant they are on technology to help them be innovative. Though today’s youth may seem app-crazy, it’s because some of the most powerful technology is changing the world and making our lives easier and more efficient. This fact alone makes millennials great for the future of America.

Relationships: Seeing Through Generational Lenses

Another difference between boomers and millennials is how they build and view relationships. Boomers know that relationships take time, effort and can be messy. To build a valuable relationship with someone takes time and human contact, and boomers know this from their experiences at work and in their personal lives.

Millennials are far more likely to rely on technology to build relationships. They use Facebook as a major tool for friendship development, as well as Twitter, Instagram, Snapchat, etc. Many of these relationships (certainly not all) are more transactional than they are substantive. Millennials have become accustomed to things happening, including relationships, quickly. Real, meaningful relationships usually do not happen quickly, and this difference needs to be understood by both millennials and boomers. I call that “thinking like a customer.”

For boomers and millennials to make wonderful music working together, they would benefit from understanding this difference and appreciating the value of both approaches. Boomers can learn to use technology to build, leverage and maintain valuable business relationships, while millennials could learn how to use more “human contact” to build those critical business relationships.

Born and Raised a Certain Way

Almost every difference between these generations can be traced back to how differently boomers and millennials were raised. Parenting strategies, availability, and use of advanced technology are just a few factors in the differing methods. Divorce rates and the internet explosion versus a generation raised on a 3-network television make up the major environmental differences in which these two generations were raised.

The Relationship Edge

The reality of such different life experiences must yield different practices, beliefs and values, and that is exactly what’s happened. How do we bridge this gap in generational life experiences? The best way I have found is to build a relationship with someone that we don’t naturally connect with. I call this the Relationship Edge.

I have a 32-year-old millennial as a mentor; every boomer needs a millennial as a mentor. In particular, they need one that is smart, inquisitive and wants to share what they know about their generation, its practices, and their expertise in a digital world. Millennials who work with influential boomers or in companies where the leadership is mostly boomers would do well to have a boomer as a mentor. To make great music at work, we need to understand and appreciate our differences. The best way to do that is to proactively learn about the other generation.

The facts are undeniable. Boomers and millennials will be working together for many years to come. The result of combining these two powerhouse generations, if they understand and learn from each other, will indeed ensure that America remains an economic power and a responsible world citizen for decades to come.