By this point, we are all tired of hearing about millennials and all of the trouble they have caused with their techy gadgets, affinity for avocados, and generally poor attitudes. Well, today I want to share my insights about an entirely different category of millennials that don’t get nearly enough media attention; a special breed of millennials I lovingly refer to as “old millennials”. Everything I will say from this point forward is based completely on my observations, and nothing will be based on research or scientific evidence (the old millennials reading this will probably hate that!)
The millennial generation is comprised of individuals born from approximately 1977 to 1997. For the purposes of this blog post, I will classify anyone born in the late 70s through the mid-80s to be an “old millennial”. As a young professional in my first full-time job, I have the privilege of working with and learning from my older colleagues, most of which are old millennials. If you’re a young millennial like me (born in the 90s aka the best decade ever), you might be able to pick out which of your colleagues are old millennials without ever needing to ask them their birthdate. The following are just a few telltale signs of old millennials:
They prefer to call you on their office phone rather than send you a quick email. They also leave voicemails that they actually expect you to listen to. I still don’t know my office extension because I have no intention of encouraging anyone to call me.
They are constantly referring to movies or pop culture from the late 80s and early 90s at the lunch table and then are sorely disappointed in you when you have no idea what they are talking about. No, I do not remember that episode of Beverly Hills 90210…sorry I was two years old when it aired.
They mother you at all times and sometimes even accidentally call you by their child’s name. They shower you with endless advice and concern for your safety.
They often use social media incorrectly. For example, they might take pictures of themselves using Snapchat filters, and then text the pictures to you rather than sending a Snapchat.
All joking aside, it can be both challenging and rewarding to work with colleagues that have had a different generational experience than you. Work style and communication preferences can be largely influenced by one’s generational context, so it is important to understand how the influence of your generational upbringing can impact how you work in a team.
Here are my top three tips for connecting with colleagues from a “different” generation.
Learn from one another
My older colleagues have much more experience in the workplace and in life than I do, and I learn from them every day. My coworkers can often fill me in on the historical context of the university, give me advice related to “adulting”, and share how they have dealt with challenges I am currently experiencing. Be open to sharing your ideas and experiences with your more experienced colleagues. There’s a good chance they have a lot to learn from you too.
I am very fortunate to have several older colleagues that I consider to be mentors. They have taken the time to invest in me as a friend and a colleague, and have challenged me to grow in my confidence and leadership ability within the workplace. Find someone in your workplace that both challenges and supports you, and seek ways to build your relationship with them.
Adaptability is a great skill to have when working with anyone, but it is especially helpful when working with colleagues that may have a different communication on work style than you. Try to meet your co-workers halfway. If they prefer to communicate over the phone or in person, be accommodating, but also share your communication preferences with them.
In closing, take the time to appreciate all of the quirky antics of your old millennial colleagues. If all else fails, spend some time brushing up on 80s pop-culture references and you’ll be all set.
By Jodi Pavol, Assistant Director for Outreach at the CLDC