Millennials in Rochester's workplace are disproving stereotypes

With baby boomers retiring by the thousands every day, there’s a seismic shift being felt in the workplace. It’s estimated that by 2025, 75 percent of American workers will be members of that millennial generation, whose members were born between the early 1980s and early 2000s.

What happens between now and that day when the last Baby Boomer retires is of great importance to companies that have a lot riding on their older and younger workers getting along and being productive. Companies are spending millions on workplace training to make sure that happens.

In general, millennials work differently than their older colleagues. They are often more comfortable with technology, for instance. Millennials are also more likely to place a priority on how their work makes a difference for the greater good, beyond their employer’s bottom line.

Doug Escher, president at Dale Carnegie Training in Rochester, is the resident Boomer at his business. He says millennials in his office have taught him a lot, and that in turn, they have learned a lot from him.

As for that “greater good” some millennials seek, Escher says, “They want to know what we’re doing makes a difference. And they want to celebrate that.”

Jennifer Butler is a vice president at the local Dale Carnegie office, and a millennial. She says, while millennials tend to do things at a faster pace, she has learned that there’s also value in slowing things down at times.

Butler says, “We just need to really take into perspective everything – from different people’s perspectives, and maybe not just what the internet says or what we find on our first Google hit.”

Escher says he has learned to accept the fact that, while most of his younger co-workers have their own offices, they choose to gather together in a conference room with their laptops, smart phones and ever-present water bottles.

Showing us one conference room, Escher says, “This is where really all of our action happens. This is where everyone’s allowed to collaborate. Think, work, do. Whatever.”

Escher is more likely to be found in his office, a room his millennial counterparts have dubbed “the cave.” It’s where he’s comfortable with some of his old-fashioned habits – such as printing things instead of reading them off a screen, and writing down appointments in his paper planner.

There are plenty of unfair stereotypes about millennials, and some are especially bothersome to members of the generation.

Ian Storm is a business analyst at Conserve. His least favorite stereotype is that millennials are selfish.

“If I need family time because family’s a top priority, Storm says, “I don’t think it’s selfish to make sure I find that balance.”

Dale Carnegie training coordinator Marielee Cruz doesn’t like hearing her generation described as lazy.

“I don’t think we can be categorized as lazy,” she says. “I think we just find the most efficient way to do things.”

Even the term "millennial" bugs a lot of millennials.

Holden Miller, who works for Roc Rooms Student Housing, says, “As a 30-year-old, I’m not sure I have a lot in common with a high schooler who is also considered a millennial.” Miller says, “They don’t remember 9/11. They don’t remember having to wait for a landline, having an answering machine.”

“I think everybody’s different," says Nick Sirianni, director of the sports performance center at the Eastside YMCA. “Everybody has their own take on how they’re going to receive the world. How they’re going to impact the world.”

About 11,000 Baby Boomers retire each day. But before the last one leaves, Doug Escher says they can learn a lot from each other.

“I keep younger,” he says. “I’m not adapting with the technology at anywhere near the speed that they would like. But they’re forgiving. So we take my strengths and I’m able to bring them to the table. And I think that makes us collectively successful.”

Compromise and communication are key. But in the end, sometimes compromise is impossible - or, at least, not necessary. At Escher’s office, in the employee break room, there are two coffee makers: A Mr. Coffee for the Boomers, and a Keurig for the millennials. And everybody’s happy.

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