How to work well with your boomer colleagues

Imagine finding yourself in a team full of boomers. The people who type with just two fingers, completely fail to grasp your dream of working remotely from Bali, and are baffled by the simplest tech tasks. 🙄 You might think collaborating with them will not get you anywhere, but that's far from the truth! Their experience can actually be very beneficial to your career. In this blog, you'll discover how.

Marjolein Jansen
Marjolein Jansen

Tech-challenged boomers and lazy gen-Z'ers

The Netherlands is ageing, and so is the workplace. Chances are, you’ll encounter “boomers”. We’re not talking about the baby boomer generation born between 1941-1955, but rather colleagues who are old at heart. They harbour workplace prejudices against your generation, and vice versa. You, as a Gen Z’er, are supposedly lazy, prioritise hobbies over work, and are glued to your phone. Conversely, boomers are seen as slow, tech-challenged, and resistant to change. Yet, there’s a good chance you’ll need to collaborate. How do you handle this? By discarding those prejudices and leveraging your curiosity!

Young professional Tjardo also had to adjust, when he started his traineeship at pension fund MN. “Initially, a pension fund didn’t seem like the most exciting place to work, but it turned out to be a positive surprise. Since my colleagues have been in the field longer, I can learn a lot from them. So, it’s definitely not boring!”

Things you can learn from your older colleagues

Okay, they may not type quickly, but they certainly possess other qualities! They exude a certain calmness from which you, as a younger colleague still figuring things out, can learn a lot. The boomers have already established their spot in the workplace. This gives you the opportunity to ask them about their experiences when they were starting out. You might learn something, or even make a connection!

Since boomers have secured their workplace niche, they tend to speak more freely. Things you might find daunting to discuss with your boss, like a mistake you’ve made for example, they’ll just blurt out. In this aspaect, they’re great role models and valuable connections in the workplace. Having been there for a while, they know the organisation and its decision-makers inside out. That’s something you can definitely benefit from!

Consultant Tim also works closely with older colleagues: “They know who to approach to get things done and protect you in situations like a difficult meeting with other departments,” he says. “They possess extensive knowledge of the (sometimes ancient) systems within the bank and know all the tricks of the trade!”

The boomer is your best advisor

Boomers know a lot about various topics and know everybody in the office. This makes them a useful link in your network. They’ve experienced a lot in the workplace and are great advisors. How to handle a tricky situation at work, secure a higher salary, or land that job you really want? They know – don’t hesitate to ask! Nowadays, we spend a lot of time on our phones and keep ourselves busy all day. Our older colleagues set a good example of the importance of rest. Try leaving your phone aside when you’re tired of working, and just gaze outside – that’s what they do! 🧘

Conflict? Here's how to handle it

Sometimes, generational differences lead to misunderstandings or conflicts. It’s annoying, but that’s what happens when you have different perspectives. How you deal with it is what really matters. Flexibility is your best ally in these situations. It’s crucial to be open to different viewpoints – sometimes, a fresh perspective from an older colleague can provide new insights.

It’s wise to explore different ways to handle conflicts; our talent managers can assist you with this! Handling a conflict well not only resolves the issue but also helps improve the workplace atmosphere. Plus, it strengthens your relationships with your colleagues. It shows that you’re not just competent in your job, but also in dealing with challenging situations.

So, the next time boomer behaviour starts to annoy you, remember that your prejudices might be obstructing your view. Stay curious about your colleagues; there’s a lot you can learn from each other!

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