By Gina Clarke
As each generation progresses it fights a little more against the rhetoric and values of the generation before, but while the differences between millennials and baby boomers are well known, there has been a huge furore this week over their differing values.
Causing headline news across the world, 22-year old Elle Darby from Bath believed she was sending Paul Stenson, owner of The Charleville Lodge Hotel and The White Moose Café in Dublin, Ireland, an innocuous enough request. With 87,000 YouTube subscribers and around 76,000 Instagram followers she asked whether Paul might be interested in ‘collaborating’ – e.g. hosting her for free for the 5 nights she would be visiting.
In return, Elle would share with her followers the location of her stay and leave a positive review. It was a request that Paul sees a lot in the hotel industry but something about this exchange made him decide to reply – in public.
He stated on the White Moose Café Facebook page,
“Lucky for us, we too have a significant social media following. We have 186k followers on our two Facebook pages, an estimated 80k on our Snapchat, 32k on Instagram and a paltry 12k on our Twitter, but Jesus Christ, I would never in a million years ask anyone for anything for free.”
Despite not publicly naming the YouTuber it wasn’t long before word had spread and Elle replied publicly accusing the hotelier of “bullying, and “not understanding the way social media works.”
In a statement posted on Snapchat, Paul told his followers the controversy “puts into question the authenticity of influencer marketing,” because “She would have spoken nicely about the hotel only because she was getting it for free.”
It certainly seems like a generational gap between the millennials and the baby boomers, and one that is increasingly finding its way into the workplace.
After all, the owner believed she acted entitled, whereas the blogger pointed out that is it an acceptable form of work these days. So how do we bridge the gap?
What are millennials and baby boomers?
Opinions differ as to the exact parameters that define each group of combatants, but the boomers are generally thought to have been born between 1946 (the results of the post-war baby boom) and the early 1960s. The millennials are so coined because they came of age at the turn of the new century, so are usually defined as being born in 1982 or later.
Complaints about the millennials from the baby boomers are that they are ‘snowflakes’ and afraid of a hard day’s work.
Whereas millennials, on the other hand, see the baby boomers as a generation that ‘had it all’ low house prices, high pensions and more retirement prospects.
What’s their problem?
We’re seeing an increase in generational gaps in the workplace, it comes as more college graduates are being hired whilst seniors are delaying retirement to a later age. As a result, people of different ages, anywhere from 18 to 70 years old, are working and collaborating together in the office. The blend of baby boomers and millennials and those generations in between, certainly adds diversity. It also adds generational differences in values, lifestyle, experience and technological familiarity, that can lead to bumps along the road.
With millennials more adept at non-verbal communication using texts, tweets or digital apps, boomers prefer good old face to face. It makes communicating together extremely difficult. After all, interpreting tone of voice pauses, in-person nonverbal cues are all things that millennials view very differently.
By missing these expressive behaviours, millennials may lack the skills necessary for interpreting feelings, attitudes, reactions and judgments. This is more damaging in cross-cultural circumstances, too, which are more significant in today’s global economy.
So how do they communicate?
The short answer is the best working environments are the ones which embrace difference. After all, a 25-year old marketing expert needs to explain their social media strategy to a 50+ employer, both need to be able to understand the market needs. Equally, that 25-year old could become a competitor quicker than the older generations give them credit.
But the best way to work together is to make clear what hard work and success look like, as every generation understands these terms differently.
Baby boomers tend to believe that work only occurs at the office, and success means putting in long work weeks to finish a project. They are process-oriented because they entered the professional world in an era when work couldn’t be done at home.
Millennials understand hard work as the quality of their output, not necessarily the hours spent in the office. Since they’re always connected, they often put hours into their work wherever they are—at home, in the coffee shop, or elsewhere. For them, success is defined as positive feedback from managers and co-workers. They often expect to be promoted quickly.
Like any team, millennials and boomers need to work together to find the best way to achieve the project goals. At times, they should each be leading. Neither is the boss. Under this dynamic, they have to build trust by understanding each other’s’ strengths and weaknesses.
However, it seems as though there is little opportunity for collaboration between YouTuber Elle Darby and Paul Stenson, he recently sent her a bill for over 5million euros for ‘publicity’ and is now selling t-shirts proclaiming “I demanded freebies at the White Moose and all I got was this lousy t-shirt.” Then again, it seems the boomer generation is just as adept as millennials after all…