Workplace Relationships: Millennials vs. Baby Boomers

Views on workplace and each other

by Matt Zajechowski

millennial vs boomer

Regardless of which side of the generational divide you fall, you have probably noticed a difference in how younger and older colleagues act in the workplace. A recent study authored by Olivet Nazarene University analyzed workplace relationships between millennials and baby boomers with the goal to learn more about how they interact and conduct business together. The analysis asked both 1,000 boomers and 1,000 millennials about company loyalty, career plans, satisfaction with current pay rate, communication style and what they like most and least about working with one another.

How Millennials Feel about Boomers

We asked millennials if they’d ever quit a job because of a boomer colleague. One in four millennials said they had actually quit their job because of a boomer colleague. When asked about what annoys millennials the most about working with a boomer, millennials cited boomers’ “know-it-all” personalities. Millennials also said that boomers not being open to new ideas was the hardest aspect about working with them. Despite the differences between millennials and boomers, only 30 percent of millennials said they felt a boomer colleague was preventing them from advancing in their career.

How Boomers Feel about Millennials

When asked the same questions as above about millennials, one in three boomers said they had quit their job because of a millennial colleague. Boomers said the thing that annoyed them most about working with millennials was their phone usage. Boomers also became frustrated with the lack of experience and the lack of responsibility their younger colleagues displayed while on the job. Boomers were also far more worried that millennials could take their job from them because of their ability to adapt more quickly and being more tech savvy.

Satisfaction with Compensation

When asked about satisfaction with their current rate of pay, 71 percent of boomers said they were satisfied compared to only 53 percent of millennials. Even with that rate of satisfaction, 51 percent of boomers said they have asked for a raise in the last year compared to only 39 percent of millennials. Millennials and boomers were both highly likely to leave their current job if offered one for more money.

Generational Workplace Preferences

We asked both generations about preferences regarding communication, workplace schedules and paid time off (PTO). When it came to office communication, baby boomers preferred face-to-face communication while millennials preferred to communicate over email. Both generations ranked chatting over the phone at or near the bottom of their list. Boomers and millennials were both pretty closely aligned on wanting to work a 9 a.m. to 5 p.m. workday as well as wanting to have unlimited PTO if offered.   

Generational Differences
Source: Olivet 2020 Employee Survey

How do you prefer to communicate with your co-workers?

Millennials

Boomers

Email

43%

34%

Face-to-face

35%

46%

Texting

10%

9%

Instant messaging (e.g., Slack)

7%

3%

Over the phone

5%

8%

Which type of workday do you most prefer?

9–5

30%

30%

Four-day week

24%

26%

Flex scheduling

21%

21%

Remote work

17%

19%

Other

8%

5%

Do office perks like happy hour or unlimited PTO make you want to work for a company?

Yes

71%

62%

No

29%

38%

Do you feel a boomer colleague is preventing you from advancing?

Yes

30%

No

70%

Why?

Taking credit for millennials’ work

36%

Unfairly placing blame on millennials

35%

Stealing millennials’ ideas

32%

Competitive in an unproductive way

31%

Not listening to millennials’ ideas

31%

Are you worried that a millennial colleague could take your job?

Yes

51%

No

49%

Why?

Ability to adapt more quickly

34%

More technology savvy

30%

Ambition

22%

Cost-cutting reasons

12%

Other

2%

Matt Zajechowski is a content strategist with Digital Third Coast who was commissioned to help author the survey questions for the Olivet Nazarene University survey on millennial and baby boomer relationships in the workplace.  

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