Is there really a difference in the working styles of Millennials and Generation X versus Boomers? No matter where I go, it seems this is still one of the most discussed and debated topics for anyone working in the accounting profession.
To get some sense of what’s going on, I continued my conversation with two professionals who are influenced, and work with, members of all generations. Representing the “older” generation or the boomers is Stan Mork, president of the Information Technology Alliance (ITA). His counterpart is Donny Shimamoto, CPA, CITP, CGMA, founder and managing director of InterpriseTechknowlogies LLC, who participates in the discussion from a “younger” generation perspective as a Gen-Xer.
Kim: Taking a look at the inherent traits of Boomers and Millennials, two things have been said. First, that Boomers believe the world doesn’t owe them anything. Second, that Millennials believe they are an entitled generation and babied by their parents and society, damaging their work ethic and the way they go about life. What’s your opinion?
Donny: I believe both are generally true. The funny thing is that it’s the Boomers who, almost literally, gave birth to the Millennials and embedded those beliefs in them. So, when I hear Boomers complain about Millennials, I always tell them, “Well, that’s the problem that you created!” However, the important thing for all of us to remember is that instead of focusing on the stereotypes, we should be looking at the person and the value they bring to the table, rather than making assumptions based on their age.
Stan: I’m right there with you Donny. I think both statements have some truth to them, but I think they can be somewhat contributed to how both generations were raised. As a Boomer, my parents did whatever they could for me to be able to be successful, but it was pretty apparent that they were making sacrifices for the betterment of their kids. As a result, I think that the boomers came in with the attitude that “I need to make this on my own,” and possibly have a greater appreciation for what they have personally achieved because they really think that they earned it.
I think a possible reason millennials have the attitude of being entitled is because their boomer parents did too much for them and didn’t instill the attitude of appreciation because they didn’t let their kids see the sacrifices they were making. However, I think once millennials get into the working world, they quickly realize that they now have to make it on their own merit, and the ones that get it quickly change some of their work ethic to make it happen.
Kim: Technology plays a huge role in the way millennials communicate, but like Stan said earlier, some boomers still prefer low-tech, like picking up the phone to talk or writing a snail mail note. What are your own preferred methods of technology to communicate, and why do you think both generations may be uncomfortable adapting to high-tech and/or low-tech?
Donny: I don’t think it’s necessarily a bad thing, but finding the right mixture between low-tech and high-tech is integral for business. Both approaches provide value and are appropriate for different situations. Unless you’re a good writer, written communication doesn’t tend to convey tone and can feel more absolute. So, in situations where there may be ambiguity or options, I will defer to direct verbal communication over written and later follow up with an electronic communication to confirm the main points or decisions made.
Stan: I actually use quite a bit of electronic communication, but still not to the extent of some of my millennial counterparts. I find email to be much more productive than many phone calls and try to use it for general communication that requires a simple response. However, if there is a more complex problem to discuss, I still think there is nothing like a personal conversation on the phone or in person.
I think the days of snail mail are probably over for both generations. While I find it very thoughtful to get a note in the mail, I don’t think many people are focused on this type of communication, and it probably isn’t a very effective way to communicate. In our “immediate gratification” world, getting something two days later isn’t efficient, and I don’t see where either generation needs to adapt back to this type of communication.
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