How Millennials Translate What Baby Boomers Say

Posted on: Aug 12, 2014

Categories: Millennial Perspective

millennialsOften, when Baby Boomer Bosses give instructions or make comments to their Millennial employees, they are stunned to see that their instructions aren’t followed and their comments are ignored.

Or at least that’s what they think.

In reality, I believe that when Baby Boomers talk, Millennials translate it into their own language, which ends up sounding entirely different from what the Baby Boomers intended.

This is Caroline, Curtis’ marketing manager, and I’d like to act as your Millennial Translator.

For example, when a Baby Boomer says, “Don’t use your cell phone at work, please,” Millennials hear: “I am stuck in my ways and anti-technology, so I don’t want you using that thing in here.”

Result: Millennials bitterly slip their iPhones into their back pockets, only to pull them out minutes later.

Or when a Baby Boomer says, “Someone needs to clean up this mess,” Millennials hear: “Someone else — not you — needs to clean up this mess.”

Result: No one cleans up the mess.

Or when a Baby Boomer says, “I need you to stay late tonight,” Millennials hear: “I don’t care what you had planned, you’re stuck here for a few more hours.”

Result: Millennials text their friends that their horrible boss is making them work late. Sry. Txt u l8r.

Now, I would like to think that all of this angst could be avoided if both generations were willing to compromise on a Baby Boomer and Millennial pidgin, so to speak.

For example, if a Baby Boomer were to say, “While you’re at work, please don’t use your phone to surf Facebook or text your friends. I am paying you to be here, and I need you to be respectful of that by using the time to complete your work tasks,” Millennials would understand why there is a cell phone policy and not just assume that their boss is behind the times.

Or if a Baby Boomer were to say, “Could you please clean up this mess?” Millennials would know who is responsible and that person would get to work cleaning.

Or if a Baby Boomer were to say, “I need you to stay late tonight. We have a very important project coming up, and we need the whole team on board to make it a success,” Millennials would understand that it isn’t their boss singling them out or treating them unfairly. Rather, part of having a job is making personal sacrifices for the benefit of the team.

Is your office getting lost in translation? It doesn’t have to be that way. Encourage your Baby Boomers to give Millennials a why behind their requests and your Millennials to think about how they can serve the team, not just themselves. Get both parties to start listening, and you won’t even need a translator.

Result: An amazing team with flawless communication.


*Image courtesy

You Might Also Like

Esther Cunningham head shot

Transitioning Gracefully

You all know Curtis. He’s the reason you’re reading this in the first place. You don’t know me. My name is Esther and I’ve been working at the Curtis Zimmerman Group for a…

Read More
Large red F.A.Q. button

Do You Have to Ask?

This is a complaint about Millennials I’ve heard a number of times from frustrated senior members of a company: They have to ask. Part of the frustration comes from the fact that a…

Read More
Collaborating and asking for feedback

4 Rules for Asking for Feedback

It isn’t easy to know how you’re doing these days. I don’t know if it’s a certain neediness for affirmation of millennials or a reticence of preceding generations—or some combination of the two—but…

Read More