It seems to me that one of the biggest culture gaps in the workplace between Baby Boomers and Millennials is how they deal with dissatisfaction.
If Boomers are unhappy with their job or their employer, they want to change the system from within. Boomers are Union reps and they’re the ones who’ll walk into a manager’s office to give Their Thoughts On Workplace Relations. Savvier Boomers will become managers. Less-savvy ones will be That Guy. You know, Larry? He’s been there for, like, a million years and he never does anything yet can’t be fired. How does that even work?
Boomer workplace culture, in other words, is the office version of the 1960s and 70s counterculture protest; scream loud enough and long enough and eventually The Man will stop the war, then it’ll be Peace and Love forever.
Millennials, meanwhile, are the product of that failed revolution; they’re the ones who saw the Boomers grow out of flares and into suits, saw them take up the reins of the very institutions they once opposed. Moreover, Millennials saw that those institutions changed under Boomer influence… and not for the better.
Workplace Millennials know the revolution isn’t coming, at least not in any way that helps. Power is corrupt and institutions are unchanging. In the workplace, we know we’re infinitely replaceable. So, if we’re unhappy, we just leave. If everywhere is terrible, at least we can choose to escape to a new kind of terrible when we have to.
Boomers want to change the system. Millennials want to change themselves.
And it’s interesting, because I think the Millennial attitude reads as flighty and self-interested to Boomers, while the Boomer attitude reads as naive and counterproductive to Millennials. And getting the two groups to meet in the middle? Yeah. Good luck with that…
(Or, in other words: hey everyone, I got a new job!)