Boomer Time vs. Millennial Time: Bridging the Gap

Millennial time, Boomer time.Comparing the Baby Boomer sense of time to Millennial time can lead to the very logical conclusion that the generations exist in parallel universes.

“They’re never on time!” wail the Boomers

“They’re always on my case!” grumble the Millennials.

In a stab for intergenerational harmony, here is one take on mutual understanding and narrowing the gap in perception.

A History Flashback for Millennials:

Baby Boomers came to age in a professional world very different from today. Here is a rundown, for those of you who did not live through the Stone Age of technology: Boomers did not have:

  • Computers. They typed on typewriters
  • Printers. They used carbon paper to make copies
  • Email. They used snail mail or interoffice mail envelopes. (Millennials, ask a Boomer about the latter.)
  • Cell phones. Phones were hard wired into the wall
  • The internet. Research meant a trip to the library
  • Text messaging. They called on the phone and talked.
  • Social media. They were limited to letters, telephone calls and real live meetings.

For Boomers, communication meant face-to-face time. Telephone contact was inefficient; busy executives could spend days playing phone tag. Sharing a document meant having a hard copy delivered to each individual.

In the Boomer world, the only way to function efficiently was to have staff members in the same place, for the same block of time. From 9am to 5pm, you could find co-workers, schedule meetings, run a document down the hall, and be reasonably certain that you would be able to move forward with business. Having your body physically onsite, promptly, and for the full workday, meant you were reliable and productive.

Boomers, Fast-Forward to Today and Millennial Time:

Millennials face a new business world, and new opportunities are emerging.  Someone can be half way around the world, or on a tropical beach, or home in bed, and be immediately reachable by email, Skype, text, phone (how old style!) or any of a dozen other modalities. Documents are stored and shared electronically, and all the information any of us ever need is available on demand, virtually immediately.

In Millennial time, 9 to 5 is a foreign concept. If a question arises at 6pm, a quick text message can catch an employee on the commuter train, for an immediate answer. Staff members “on vacation” are often expected to answer emails and calls throughout their time away.

Getting things done no longer relies as heavily on being in the same building at the same time. And to Millennials, who are accustomed to being connected almost 24/7, being in the building, at a desk, at 9 am promptly, and staying until at least 5pm often bears no connection to necessity.

So How Do We Reach Harmony?

Boomers, recognize that in many cases, work can be handled effectively regardless of the location of the individual. Documents and resources can be accessed remotely and collaboration can occur from anywhere. If outcomes are achieved and deadlines met, and work is being completed satisfactorily, consider the necessity of keeping rigidly defined on-site work hours.

Millennials, recognize that in spite of technology, some jobs, or some portions of jobs, really do demand that a person is on time, and available for the entire time expected.

  • If you are relieving another staff member, your tardiness is an affront to them. You may also be causing your employer to have to pay overtime, which could jeopardize the business and your employment.
  • In some industries, your lateness or absence can mean lost sales and furious customers. When you are a customer, you expect businesses to be open when they say, and you expect them to be fully staffed. As an employee, you are responsible for making that happen for your employer.
  • If your boss wants to communicate with you face to face, you need to be there, as scheduled. You have been hired for a job, as defined by your employer. If part of that job means being on time and being there for the full shift, you need to meet that requirement. If you cannot do so, expect to lose the job.

The Bottom Line:

Some jobs can be accomplished effectively with casually defined office hours. Others cannot. Keeping strict hours that are unnecessary can be frustrating to good employees, who may leave in search of greater flexibility. On the other hand, some businesses cannot afford to keep employees who are not present as needed. Millennial time works in some contexts, but not in all.

Millennials and Boomers: Set reasonable expectations, communicate them, and recognize that the other generation isn’t always as irrational as they may seem!

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2 Responses to Boomer Time vs. Millennial Time: Bridging the Gap

  1. Avatar
    Kurt Scholle August 30, 2016 at 1:38 pm #

    Good article. Kinda explains why different social platforms are embraced by Millenials and Boomers differently.

    • Ellen Huxtable
      Ellen Huxtable August 30, 2016 at 3:45 pm #

      Thanks for your comments, Kurt. Differ times, different media!

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