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Can boomers and millennials form professional 'power teams'?

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What are the building blocks of a strong inter-generational team? (iStock)

Inter-generational potshots aside, boomers and millennials could actually make incredible teams at work, argues social entrepreneur Nathaniel Koloc.

In a post making the rounds today on social media, Koloc posits that the potential of today's digital natives combined with the experience of their seasoned elders can combine to create a "vibrant, powerful opportunity."

"Much has been written stereotyping both the millennial and baby-boomer generations, but the real insight lies in how they work together - if given the right environment," he writes, adding that he doesn't buy into the oil-and-water view.

 Have you ever been part of an inter-generational power team? (iStock) Those tech-savvy twenty-somethings tapping away at the smartphones, he argues, work incredibly hard when they are motivated. They are willing to try new things, work long hours, juggle tasks and take risks that could improve situations their elders may think are set in stone.

They are also interested in personal growth, and want mentors to help them avoid mistakes, make progress, and offer meaningful contributions.

"At the core of the Millennial energy is potential," he argues, adding that boomer energy, on the other hand, comes from experience.

Older workers, he continues, have "intangible wisdom that comes from decades of forming and living through relationships, projects, and experiences."

They also have a certain confidence that comes from having had relationships of all kinds. They too want to see the world become a better place, and have a lot of wisdom to impart after decades spent learning what works.

They may, however, have an "uneven relationship with technology, how it works, and what is possible."

Joining forces

Without asking either generation to change the core of what defines them, Koloc proposes that the two groups can join forces if they figure out how to communicate with one another.

The pillars of this goal are, in brief:

  • Focus on the 'why' not the 'how' that motivates the project
  • Understand each others' strengths and weaknesses instead of defaulting into a hierarchical team dynamic
  • State clearly that teaching and learning will be two-way

"A lot of these points would go for any team that I'd assemble, but my hunch is that there is an extra bit of magic in a Boomer/Millennial duo that is set up for success and encouraged to play off of each other's inherent strengths," he concludes.

Those weighing in online seemed largely receptive to this modest proposal.

But there was also some annoyance coming from the group sandwiched between those with the most seniority and those closer to the entry level.

Koloc is among those looking for opportunities within a rapidly changing career landscape -- one in which many older workers, who may have already been retired in generations past, are increasingly working alongside coworkers young enough to be their children.

What's the age composition of your workplace like? Do you find that the youngest and oldest team members understand one another and collaborate as effectively as they can, or is it oil and water where you work?

Please share your stories of inter-generational partnerships below. 

Tags: CBC, community

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