Baby Boomers, Gen X'ers, & GenY/Millennials: Can We Work Together?

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    Baby Boomers, Generation X’ers, Generation Y/Millennials are all working together on various units/areas of hospitals. Are we all working together as a cohesive staff? Or are we all just together working on the same shift? There is a huge difference between working together and just working at the same time. Generational differences are real and apparent in the hospital setting, and we hope that they aren’t impacting patient care!

    Baby Boomers, Gen X'ers, & GenY/Millennials: Can We Work Together?

    There is so much talk about generational differences in the workplace, and the reason that it gets a lot of attention, is because it is actually a source of dissention. Have you ever noticed the generational differences before? Have you felt the differences? Because hospitals are different settings than a standard business workplace, it may seem like these generational differences shouldn't really affect the work force, but they do. The way that each generation's works, learns, and interacts (with patients and each other), not only impacts how we all work together, but how we professionally develop. There truly are pros and cons to each generation and how they work, but it is interesting looking at the differences between Baby Boomers, Gen X'ers, and Gen Y/Millennials all in the same workplace!

    Baby Boomers (defined as those born in 1946 through 1965) are really hard workers, who are loyal, and are great to work with as a nursing staff: they think about everyone on the staff, and make sure that during any given shift, everyone is helping each other out, they work hard without complaining, and they want to do what is best for their patients...even if it means forgoing their own needs. There is nothing better than heading into a night shift, with a full moon, knowing that you have a group of baby boomers working with you, so you know you will be working as a team to tackle the long, hectic night ahead, and you will all take the best care of your patients, and you will all leave exhausted but feeling good about the care you gave your patients, and know that everyone was well cared for. I used to love my old night crew, where I was by far the youngest, but learned so much from my co-workers; they always took opportunities to teach me different techniques, and they were always interested in learning from me as well. The biggest area that stumped the boomers? Technology. They weren't really interested in technology, and didn't like learning it, but eventually gave in when it was the only option. I must say, that I was an enabler (just as my other Gen X cohorts) and helped them with the technological barriers, until they finally got the hang of it. Baby Boomers are not as adaptable to change as other generations, but their hard working nature and huge hearts make up for it!

    Generation X (defined as those born in 1966 through 1976) is different in that the generation is full of leaders, adaptable to change, hardworking, but a little more self-centered, in that they will work hard and dedicate themselves, as long as it works for their life and benefits them, as opposed to the Boomers who just work hard, regardless. Also, the Gen X'ers tend to be great problem solvers and collaborators, which is why they tend to work well with Boomers (and others) and tend to become leaders quickly. As much as I love working with Baby Boomers, I think that the Gen X'ers are awesome, and I also know that when I go into work, if I have a tough assignment, we will all work together, I don't need to ask them to check on my other patient(s) if I am in with a really heavy assignment, and they don't need to ask me to help out either, it's a collaborative and cohesive work environment with strong situational awareness. Gen X'ers can tend to clash with each other because too many people are trying to lead at once, but overall, in a setting where roles are clearly defined, they are able to work together, with various other people, and are pretty adaptable to situations.

    Generation Y/Millennials (defined as those born 1977-1994) are really enthusiastic and tech savvy workers, which is great! They push the use of technology, readily adapt to it, and it helps them to stay excited about their jobs, and stay committed. They want to move ahead and be promoted quickly, which can be great for the future, however that can also be a detriment. By working to become promoted quickly, it means that they have blinders on, focusing on their own career path, and tend to be more selfish in the workplace; they are not great team players. In some careers, that is great, but in the world of nursing and healthcare, it makes for some long and stressful shifts, if you are the one with a heavy assignment and not getting the help you need from your coworkers because they are so focused on their own assignment. Who wants to walk into a shift like that every day?

    In nursing, you need team players. Saving lives and working on a hospital floor, unit, area, etc. you are all working together to the benefit of your patients. If one of your co-workers doesn't help out when your "stable" patient becomes acutely sick, check on your other patients when one of your patients has a cardiac arrest, check in with you to see what they can do to help you when they have a much lighter patient load, or are taking an early lunch while you haven't even had a chance to get to the bathroom (and lunch is not even on your radar) don't forget that. It's possible for us all to work together in cohesive staff, as long as we can all appreciate the strengths of each individual and, be aware of, and work on our weaknesses, it can work. Have you ever worked with these differences and tried to make a change? Or do you not even notice these differences in your workplace? A major problem is that people don't want to address the issue of generational differences, but when it is causes strife between staff, which can impact patient care, it needs to be addressed to create a cohesive staff. We all need to work together and promote the importance of safe and effective patient care.
    Last edit by Joe V on Jun 17, '18
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  3. by   Cowboyardee
    I'll preface by saying that I mean no offense...

    I more or less disagree with the premise here. Not that we need to work together as a team, get past differences, and all that - that's obviously true. But I disagree that these generalizations about generational differences are useful ways of thinking about our coworkers. The above descriptions are pat and semi-true generalizations about large groups of people, who in real life have widely varied backgrounds, experiences, personalities, etc. Applied on an individual level, they're worse than useless - they're misleading stereotyped, at times even offensive. I have about as much common between myself and everyone else born within some arbitrary 20 year span of time as I do between myself and everybody born in the same part of the country, or the same height, or the same eye color. It's a better predictor than my astrological sign, but not by much. And working cohesively with your coworkers is all about making pieces fit as individuals, not effective mixing of three simple archetypes.
  4. by   NotAllWhoWandeRN
    "Generations" are arbitrary except perhaps markers such as very low or high birth rates, like the baby boomers, that can directly affect life in a short period of time. While I do believe that there are overall cultural shifts in attitudes and perceptions, I have never in my life been able to stratify people's skills, strengths, and weaknesses according to when they were born.
  5. by   Altra
    This post enumerates personal characteristics the OP has found to be desirable/undesirable in her coworkers and attempts to link them to age / generational cohort.

    In my experience - nothing could be further from the truth. And nothing alienates coworkers more than applying labels based on personal characteristics.
  6. by   Dogen
    This article is ostensibly about teamwork, but seems mostly like a laundry list of stereotypes, and virtually the whole paragraph about millennials is one big slam with a thin veneer of calling them "enthusiastic."

    Maybe the best way to work together cohesively is to be aware of our assumptions about people based on their age and actively challenge ourselves to be more open-minded and seek out things we have in common, in order to build relationships based on shared beliefs and experiences. I mean, "old people and technology, right? lol" isn't exactly how you go about encouraging people to appreciate similarities over differences, you know?
  7. by   TheCommuter
    I'd be classified as a Millennial according to this piece since I was born in '81. I feel older than the typical person who belongs to the Millennial cohort due to being in my mid-30s, but anyhow...

    Although I'm very computer-literate, I didn't grow up with a computer in the household. I'm also a team player, but far from enthusiastic about the concept of work. I also lack any morsel of dedication to the workplace itself. Let me rephrase that: I will never be loyal to an employer.

    You see, I was 20 years old when Enron collapsed in 2001. The masses of upper middle-aged Enron employees who lost their retirement savings due to misconduct from upper management did not benefit from their profound loyalty to the company. That news story had an impact on me.

    I am a team player, but work is not the most important aspect of my life. It never will be. I will never give my all to a workplace, only to be steamrolled in the end.
  8. by   smartassmommy
    I too am a millennial by birth year, but I am not looking to rush into promotions. You can't accurately characterize people by when they were born. I've met plenty of boomers with a "me first" attitude.
  9. by   1sttime
    You can generalize about a generation... Did you grow up without computers as a generation? Its about shared experience. Boomers witnessed a lot of change in the way we live in modern America.

    Did you grow up with the TV as one of your parents- did computers amuse you? Hi fellow Gen-Xers. We are the generation hallmarked with the lowest birthrate year in the US 1975.

    We are skipping over Gen-Y, poor Gen-Y got grouped in with Millennials- which they most definitely are not. I think it was defined as the period of 1981-1988.

    Anyway- the point is that all of our generations were taught in a different way, with different tools. Now we all work in a hospital with all of these generations. In order to work together in this environment someone has to step forward and put into practice sociology 101...

    Sorry that people feel they are all special snowflakes who transcend time... but there are certain truths to what the author said.
  10. by   Farawyn
    I'm a Gen Xer. What's a Special Snowflake?
    There's some truth, loosely to the OP, but I like the poster who said there are much stronger commonalities, such as where you live, etc.
  11. by   Purple_roses
    Yes, we can work together. Verily easily actually. Right up until you start putting people in boxes.
  12. by   Gsb123
    I don't think I want you as my nurse, seems like your just there for the paycheck.
  13. by   Farawyn
    Quote from Gsb123
    I don't think I want you as my nurse, seems like your just there for the paycheck.
    "What is a judgey patient for 400, Alex?"
  14. by   Pangea Reunited
    Quote from Gsb123
    I don't think I want you as my nurse, seems like your just there for the paycheck.
    ...then just ask to be assigned to the nurse who's working for free.