Clashing in the Workplace: Millennials vs. Baby Boomers

Clashing in the Workplace: Millennials vs. Baby-Boomers

Every day, more and more millennials are clashing with their older peers in the workplace. “Oh you just look so cute, like the high-schoolers, “ the 60 something woman said to me as I dashed in the room in search of a band-aid. In the middle of transitioning between classrooms (I’m a travelling teacher since there aren’t enough rooms for everyone), I scraped some staples across the top of my foot. I was trying to quickly clean up the blood so I could set up for my next class and knew that another teacher’s room I used had band-aids in her desk. She was out that day and had a substitute filling in for her.

Upon hearing the comment from her substitute, I nearly froze in my tracks. I am 24 years old and painfully aware of my “baby face,” but I could also attribute this fact to good genes. My mother is in her 50s and looks like she is in her early 40s. My maternal grandmother had beautiful skin until the day she passed. Still, I felt deeply offended.

I remember another such incident when I was apartment hunting in Cincinnati and was asked by the leasing agent if I would actually be able to afford paying rent each month. Despite my carefully put together outfit and evidence of the research I had done on housing in the city, I’m pretty sure she didn’t believe me until I whipped out my employment letter offer listing my salary.  

I know how young I look. Getting double carded and questioned when all I want is a glass of wine is a common occurrence for me. I will probably be glad about this when I myself am in my 50s, but now it is a major pain.

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I pride myself on being professional and working very hard to get where I am, but I constantly find myself being patronized by baby-boomers in my own workplace. I can’t help that I look the age of the kids I teach, but that does not mean you can openly express this and demean me to my face. I act like a professional and expect to be treated as such.

Millennials face this problem often even if they are not plagued by the baby face like myself. Since I do hold myself to high standards, I would never openly express that this woman, or anyone else who says these things to me, that I am offended and whip out a snappy response.

When this situation happened, I took a deep breath, grabbed my band-aid, and asked how her day was going subbing for the other teacher. I had to be the bigger person and continue acting like the adult I am. Generally my course of action is to be courteous to the other person and ask them how they are doing. This demonstrates professionalism and definitely separates me from my students, who are not likely to speak this way.

The problem with these common clashes happening in the workplace is that I cannot make it seem like a “clash” has just happened. If I were to speak back in a negative way, this person would likely brand me with the self-entitled stamp that they do to so many people in my generation.

I am very grateful for the position at a great school I worked so hard to get, and am still working hard to keep. Baby-boomers want to say that Millennials are lazy and unmotivated, but so many of us are doing phenomenal things in the workplace. My philosophy is to let them say what they want to say. The proof can be seen in what this baby face accomplishes.

Have you ever had situations like this in the workplace? How did you react?