The Overlooked Factor To Job Satisfaction For Millennials That Doesn't Matter To Baby Boomers

Friends in the office makes millennials more productive, but boomers are more likely to separate their professional and personal lives

It goes without saying that the people you spend eight or more hours a day with can make or break your work experience. Having a colleague who’s there to celebrate your wins and lend an ear for your grievances? That makes a huge impact on the happiness meter, especially for millennials.

LinkedIn recently discovered how important those work BFFs are in its latest Relationships @Work study. In partnership with CensusWide, the survey polled more than 11,500 full-time professionals between the ages of 18-65 in 14 countries including the United States, Sweden, India, Canada, Australia, Hong Kong, Singapore, Spain, the Netherlands, Malaysia, Italy, Indonesia, Brazil and the U.K.

The study found that millennials (ages 18-24) rely on work buddies to boost their spirits and output.

  • 57% said friendships make them feel happy
  • 50% said friendships were motivating
  • 39% said friendships made them more productive

They don’t call it a generation gap for nothing. Almost half the workers surveyed between the ages of 55-65 reported that friends at work had nothing to do with their performance on the job.

Part of this may come from the easy intimacy most millennials have with their colleagues.

  • The majority (53%) of millennials are more open to sharing relationship advice with coworkers in the office, compared to less than one fourth (23%) of boomers.
  • One in three (28%) millennials have texted a manager out of work hours for a non-work related issue, compared to only 10% of boomers.

"Young generations generally tend to share more personal details due to the fact that they simply don’t have as much personal information or life experience to share in that stage of life," LinkedIn’s career expert Nicole Williams tells Fast Company.

If you're wondering how gen X falls into all this, it's somewhere in between. "We looked at various age groups and found the most significant differences were among in the young millennial and later-in-life baby boomers," says Williams.

Williams believes this merging between work and personal life is also product of a heavy cocktail mixed with equal parts technology, reality TV, and social media. Organizational psychologist Billie Blair, of organizational change company Change Strategists, Inc. agrees. "From our experience with millennials in the corporations of our clients, it's a function of the ‘Facebook generation’ where everything gets shared, whether it's wise to or not," says Blair.

Williams does think that the number of hours they work—more than generations past—helps them build more meaningful relationships.

"Boomers, who traditionally look at their work day as the "9 to 5 job," are more inclined to separate their professional lives from their personal lives," she says. Many of them go home to their spouses and children after the work day, Williams observes. "They already have established relationships at home, they’re not as interested in building friendships at work," she adds.

Traditional Subjects No Longer Taboo

Nearly half of all millennials (49%) are more likely to discuss salary with coworkers at work, compared to less than one third of baby boomers (31%).

"There is less of a divide than previous generations in discussing salary—it doesn’t have the same level of stigma as it did 10 years ago," says Williams who is a gen Xer. "Historically speaking, the ranges of starting salary used to be much higher than they are nowadays," she explains.

Williams notes that tools such as LinkedIn provide more visibility for sharing information and encourage people to talk about issues such as salary. "Millennials today are being paid significantly less upon entering the work force. They ask the salary question among their peers as a frame of reference," Williams says.

Of course, sharing sensitive information can come back to bite you, says Williams, so it’s better to err on the side of caution. "I recommend picking up on social cues from your co-workers to determine what’s appropriate to discuss in the workplace," she says. To be safe, Williams advises offering broad-stroke answers while staying within boundaries of what’s acceptable.

Divulging personal details isn’t necessarily making millennials more competitive. Only 18% of all workers polled reported that work friends made them more eager to get ahead, with millennials weighing in at just over a quarter (27%).

There is one point where the generation gap widened significantly:

Sixty-eight percent of millennials would sacrifice a friendship with a colleague for a promotion; 62% of baby boomers would never consider it.

Millennials fair-weather friendship is probably just fine, though. "Time will be the great instructor," Blair contends.

"Friends at work sometimes turn out to be long-lasting, but this is more rare than usual as all are competing in the work setting," she explains. "Lasting friendships usually get formed with those outside of work."

[Image: Flickr user Christos Loufopoulos]

Add New Comment

6 Comments

  • While the article makes some good points, my thoughts and experiences are more in line with Marsha's comment. For one thing, most of the Boomers I know work long hours, whether or not they have families to go home to. Further, research in the last last decade has found that the social aspects of work are very important to Boomers. Both in 2004 and this year, surveys by Merrill Lynch and Age Wave have four that a very large percentage of Boomers don't want to retire at the traditional retirement age and want to keep working because they want to rather than need to. And the biggest motivations are for the intellectual stimulation and to keep up their relationships at work. So there seems to be a disconnect in the research findings.

    What we need more of at work are cross-generational relationships and conversation to help all generations with both their performance and their job satisfaction and engagement.

  • Collaborative work places still rely on personal relationships. Openness is an individual trait. Industry work environments are highly competitive and friends do discuss work and ambitions at all ages. Like all surveys the nuances are hidden within the headlines. I am a Boomer and behave like a 30 something, being more open and inclusive than my own largely private generation. The social media Millenials are device literate and pro-social but often more "selfie centred." Clearly they are more aware of their standing within communities, especially work. In a passive Machiavellian way this often leads to a slideshare , google circles cultural norm. Borrow, adopt, and project is a survival tactic, rather than genuine bonding.. Boomers were more often protected by work cliques and less rapid change in technology. Today we can Google it. Tech has made us generation neutral , it still comes down to individual attitudes and skills. Age as a descriptor fails again.

  • marsha.stacey408

    I was surprised by the finding that almost half the baby boomers surveyed reported that friends at work had nothing to do with their job performance. As a baby boomer, I have thrived in those jobs where I have established friendships. When I have worked for an organization where friendships were discouraged, I did feel passionate about my work and existed the job quickly. A boomer friend of mine is considering early retirement because several of his work buddies have either moved to different positions or have retired. As professionals, we are at the workplace fifty or more hours a week and must have friends with whom we can bounce around ideas, celebrate the wins , and commiserate about the losses.

  • marsha.stacey408

    I was surprised by the finding that almost half the baby boomers surveyed reported that friends at work had nothing to do with their job performance. As a baby boomer, I have thrived in those jobs where I have established friendships. When I have worked for an organization where friendships were discouraged, I have found a reason to leave. In fact, a boomer friend of mine is considering early retirement because several of his work buddies have either moved to different positions or have retired. As professionals, we are at the workplace fifty or more hours a week and must have friends with whom we can bounce around ideas, celebrate the wins and commiserate about the losses.

  • Great article (and research by LinkedIn)! Working in an industry that is seeing a lot of Millennial interest right now (inside sales), these stats and observations really make sense. Millennials seem to have an easy social nature, making lots of connections across traditional hierarchies, but not necessarily making deep, lasting connections. That last powerful statistic on sacrificing a friendship for a promotion really drives that home. The dynamic and challenging job market also plays a big role, there. Thanks for the great piece, Lydia!

  • The article is so very true. Also to add, the impact of social networking sites has made beginners think on their to own and run a start-up at risk, yet willing to move on which boomers do not consider every time! At any point of time, I shall not consider having a personal relationship with my colleagues during work hours. If my colleague is a friend outside work hour, he is still a friend.