AARP’s Guide To Working With Boomers

This is a guest post from Mary C. Hickey from the AARP Media Content Team.

A post yesterday on the Wall Street Journal’s At Work blog offered advice to Baby Boomers on how to get along with their younger colleagues in the workplace.

Calling for “mutual respect,” the blogger listed the things Boomers need to understand about young co-workers, including their technological superiority, their lack of company loyalty, their unique ability to collaborate, and their drive for instant success.

Okay. Got it.

But now we’ve got some advice to help these young workers better understand the Baby Boomers in the surrounding cubicles.  Here are five things we want them to know:

1.)  We may not be as tech savvy as you, but we’re not total idiots.

So perhaps you did learn how to maneuver a mouse before you could talk. And maybe you do have an ease with technology that we once had with a rotary phone.  But that doesn’t mean we’re clueless about computers – as that ridiculous photo accompanying the WSJ post suggests.  (A woman putting white-out on a letter on her computer screen? Really?!)  Most of us are doing just fine adapting to the newest technology.  It’s not all that complicated.

2.)  We’re accustomed to a more formal workplace. 

Yes, we know you think it’s okay for Mark Zuckerberg to wear a hoodie when he’s meeting potential investors on Wall Street. And that it’s perfectly acceptable for a woman to come to work in a tank top that reveals not only her cleavage and bra straps, but all of her tattoos as well.  But understand that we came of age even before the dawn of casual Fridays – and that Boomer women actually lived through a time when they had to wear shoulder pads and little bow ties to be taken seriously.  Is it really so crazy to think maybe the pendulum has swung a little too far in the opposite direction? 

3.)  We’re jealous of your work/life balance.

You may hear us grumbling about how you scoot out of the office at 5 on the nose every night – or that you think it’s okay to work from home because your dog sprained his left paw.  But that’s just because we’re envious of your ability (so early in life!) to strike such a sensible work-life balance.  Many of us didn’t have that luxury.  In fact, we may have paved the way for you to have it – so at very least, give us our props.

4.)  We’re secretly threatened.

Believe it or not, many Boomers have actually considered the possibility that you can do our job as well as we can – and for a lot less money to boot.  But as a generation, we haven’t exactly been model citizens when it comes to saving for retirement. So we’re planning to stick around the workplace for as long as we can.  Make no mistake: We love having you as colleagues, but we’re not ready to have you displace us just yet.

5.)  We actually could teach you a thing or two.

Sure, you definitely know more than we do about a lot of things: Instagram,  FourLoko, artisanal soymilk and Nicki Minaj, to name just a few. But over the years we Boomers have acquired a lot of workplace wisdom that’s still relevant – in spite of all the changes we’ve seen.   If there’s a generation gap in the workplace, one of the best ways to help bridge it is allowing us to share some of the lessons we’ve learned.  

 Photo credit: Brian Auer via flickr.