Working with people who are different than you is tough, right? Especially if they are family! One of the things that we hear time and time again about the challenges of family business, and small business in general is the frustration of working with different generations. Currently, there are three different generations present in they workforce with a fourth getting ready to join. Understanding how each generation works together is vital to the success of small business.

With 3-4 distinct groups of people who each have a completely different understanding about how the world works, there is a lot of opportunity for conflict!

The most common generations represented in the work force right now are the Baby Boomers and the Millennials. For reference the generation of Baby Boomers were born between 1946 and 1964, and the Millennials were born between 1978 and 1998.

Each group often misunderstands the other which leads to frustration on the job. Here are three key differences that will help to bridge that generation gap.  

Loyalty to the Job

Why is it that Boomers stay at a job for years and years, even if they hate it? Why do Millennials hop from one job to the other, without a care in the world?

As a small business, one of our biggest challenges is finding and retaining good people. In fact, we have a full series available on our blog on this subject alone. It is important that as we consider the differences in groups of people, we have to understand their unique approach to job loyalty.

What Millennials need to keep in mind:

Most Boomers, started their career with a specific job to do. They didn’t necessarily work on team projects that required meetings. This is a change for them. When you are working on projects with Boomers (or anyone for that matter), put your phone down and work on the task at hand. Come prepared and ready to contribute, and with the focus of producing solid results.

What Boomers need to keep in mind:

Many Millennials saw their parents as “time card punchers” and heard them complain about how they hated their jobs. That is not what Millennials want. Millennials are looking for more than just a paycheck in their job, they want personal fulfillment. Open communication is key for millennials, and is directly linked to their loyalty in a job.

Decision Making

Why can’t Millennials make a decision without getting a group to help them? Why does it take so long for Boomers to make decisions?

Regardless of what position you have an employee in they will have to make decisions. Some are big decisions, like buying or selling a company; others are small decisions such as how to deal with a difficult customer. Regardless, every decision that is made affects the business in some way.

What Millennials need to keep in mind:

When Boomers make decisions, they typically try to see the problem from different angles and make the best decisions based on the facts. Many Boomers make their decisions by looking at where they want to go and looking at their long term goals. Understand that Boomers bring a lot of experience to the job and are excellent about setting long-term goals

What Boomers need to keep in mind:

Many Millennials are in a place of life where they are asked to make decisions constantly, some of which they bring on themselves. With social media and the constant connection to the world around them, there is very rarely a time they aren’t making a decision. For many, it’s easy to be overwhelmed by all of the decisions that need to be made that they just don’t make a decision and react to whatever happens. Understand that Millennials learn fast. Help them make work-related decisions while helping them to understand how their decisions affect the organization as a whole.


Why is change so hard for Boomers? Why can’t Millennials stick with anything?

Change is a part of life. As business grows and morphs, change is inevitable. Every company we work with adapts to the current trends and available technologies.  As companies grow and change, the reaction from the different generations will be drastically different.

What Millennials need to keep in mind:

Most Boomers don’t have a problem with change itself, but the speed that change happens in. If you look at the last 50+ years, there were many social and political changes that happened. Change, for Boomers, requires relearning and reconditioning. It can be unnerving, since change makes them ask themselves if they are still relevant. While change is vital to growth of any organization, it is important to communicate the “hows” and “whys” and remember that they are collaborators in the change, not obstacles.

What Boomers need to keep in mind:

Millennials have grown up in a world where change is constantly happening and that change effects everything they do. It is just natural to them. It can be difficult for Millennials to understand why change has to be process oriented and happen at a slower pace. For many Millennials, change is invigorating. It’s important to understand that Millennials ability to handle change makes them flexible and they are great team players.

Is it easy to work with people who are different than you? No. Will the work you put in to understanding others take your business to another level of success? Absolutely. Have conversations with the people who work with you, and work to understand why they think like they do and see what you can learn from them!