Recently, I’ve been caught up in the seemingly cliché Millennials vs. Boomers argument, after reading Olivia Barrow's piece titled "What it means to be an entitled, lazy, narcissistic Millennial". It was amazing how quickly a well-written argument on perspective was taken hostage by the comments section, which pitted one side against the other.
What has caused so much animosity, and why? Isn’t the question how we can work together, instead of working to dismantle each others’ arguments?
People were born stereotyping – or, as our brains like to call it, grouping or categorizing. To process so much information, we separate people and places into groups (such as “dangerous” or “safe”). Though our survival mode is no longer necessary, the “categorizing” function still exists – hence, stereotypes continued. In fact, recent research has pointed to “automated stereotyping”, which is a millisecond-long process in how our brains process those in front of us.
Socially, stereotypes are more of a hurdle that can only be jumped once we’re self-aware of our stereotypes. (Ideas such as, all Millennials are entitled and count on their parents for financial support, or all Boomers are slow and computer-illiterate). Keep in mind, there’s a person behind whichever label you’re trying to pin. We all come from different environments, and need to be able to understand each other in order to move forward.
There are some great people in your lives, no matter the age. Though I’m part of the Millennial generation and identify with it, I’ve always worked hard and tried to forge my own path, after studying others’ paths. I constantly look for ways I can work on known weaknesses (such as understanding complex business processes and requirements), and ways I can pass on my knowledge (such as Microsoft Office software configuration, or creating a Gantt chart in Excel instead of Project). Being “young” or part of a different generation never even crossed my mind until others started pointing it out.
When we work together, we’re an unstoppable force – but only if both sides are able to take a step back, see the people behind the label, communicate effectively, and have some patience with the other side. If we give each other a chance, we’ll be surprised at the result.
Psychology Today, "Where Bias Begins: The Truth About Stereotypes"
Psychology Today, "Cultural Stereotypes, or National Character?"
Association for Psychological Science, "The Neurology of Stereotypes"