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Brian Cain

Brian Cain

Brian Cain is a sergeant with the Holly Springs (Ga.) Police Department, and is known as the "Millennial cop" on Twitter. He has been in law enforcement since 2000. He hosts and produces a podcast for Millennials in law enforcement.

Doug  Wyllie

Doug Wyllie

Doug Wyllie has authored more than 1,000 articles and tactical tips aimed at ensuring that police officers are safer and more successful on the streets. Doug is a Western Publishing Association “Maggie Award” winner for Best Regularly Featured Digital Edition Column. He is a member of International Law Enforcement Educators and Trainers Association (ILEETA), an Associate Member of the California Peace Officers’ Association (CPOA), and a member of the Public Safety Writers Association (PSWA).

Michael Bostic

Michael Bostic

Mike Bostic, of Raytheon Corp.'s Civil Communication Solutions group, specializes in open architecture, systems integration of communications and data programs. Mike spent 34 years with the LAPD. He managed IT and facility development, as well as the SWAT Board of Inquiry, which developed new command-and-control systems.

How Boomers and Gen Y Can Bridge the Tech Gap

Cooperation and mutual respect paves the way to greater understanding.

September 18, 2013  |  by Brian Cain - Also by this author

Infographic via Flowtown.
Infographic via Flowtown.
As I rounded the corner of a hallway that leads to my office, I heard the words that I have grown to hate: "You know this younger generation just expects to have everything handed to them." Those words make my blood boil. We will get to my retort at the end of this article.

Here are a few facts. The Gen Y crowd was born between 1977 and '95. There are around 78.9 million of us in the United States alone, according to an estimate by the Center for Generational Kinetics. That makes us the fastest-growing demographic in the marketplace and the workplace. So, despite the bemoaning baby boomers, we are entering the workforce in droves and there is nothing that can be done about it. We are here to stay. With that in mind, how can Gen Y and baby boomers co-exist in a field that is dominated by type-A personalities?

It's simple. The baby boomers have to stop fighting us, and we have to stop discounting the experience of the boomers. Law enforcement is a very exciting world to be working in right now. Technology is catching up with the demands of the profession, and the Gen Yers are very adept at using that technology. With boomers at the helm of most law enforcement agencies, the technology isn't being used to its full potential. 

Most boomers are scared of technology. They have no idea how it works and are leery of implementing unfamiliar pieces of tech in their organizations. Millennials are familiar with the technology but command-level leadership continuously fails to ask them how to use it.

Millennials have a reputation for being tech-savvy. That's not an accurate depiction. As Jason Dorsey, The Gen Y Guy, so eloquently states, "Gen Y is not tech-savvy; we are tech-dependent." We don't innately know how to use these emerging forms of technology. We are forced to learn it because of our dependence on it. Often, we forget that those who wore the badge before us are not comfortable with this perceived "magical understanding" of how technology works.

Boomers may never understand how using Evernote replaces their pocket notebook. Millennials will never understand what it's like to not use spell check. It doesn't make either generation wrong, it just makes us different. Boomers, if taught how to properly use technology, would stand to gain significant understanding of the benefits of those tools. Millennials could use a little practice in sitting still for an hour and handwriting a report. It is all about teaching and mentoring, from both generations.

As a sergeant, I use a simple template for the mentoring process:

  • I do, you watch.
  • I do, you help.
  • You do, I help.
  • You do, I watch.
  • You do, someone else watches.

The application of this process has made my life less stressful and complicated. I use it at work and at home. I find it helpful when supervising those of the boomer generation. If boomers would take the time to teach millennials the nuances of their way of doing things, millennials would come to better appreciate the ways of boomer cops. If millennials walked boomers through this process, respecting the fact that the boomers are resistant to change, the boomers would better understand how millennials see the world.

I'm aware that it's hard for boomers to humble themselves and learn from a millennial. As long as there is a mentoring relationship, servant leadership, and two willing participants, this process can help bridge the generational gap. Boomers need to stop bellyaching about the ADHD tendencies of millennials, and millennials have to stop discounting the treasure chest of knowledge stored in the minds of the boomers. If we just face the fact that we must work together to make the organization more successful, we can have a symbiotic relationship that takes the department to new heights.

Now to finish my story...

As I walked past the room of the boomers who were taking a shot at me, I stopped dead in my tracks. I stuck my head in the room and told him, "Yeah, we can be like that. But isn't it your generation who raised us?" I received no answer to my question, at least not an audible one.

Editor's note: Listen to Brian Cain's Millennial Cop podcast here.


Workplace Communication: Closing the Generation Gap

Comments (2)

Displaying 1 - 2 of 2

Edward Baldridge @ 9/20/2013 2:54 PM

Great piece Brian. Very well spoken, but as a boomer who was taught that seniority meant something. It disturbs me how Gen. Y gets hired straight out of the academy and immediately thinks he should get the new patrol vehicle over the veteran because Gen Y feels pops isn't going to do any work. Not knowing anything about pops or the types of arrests/cases pops has handled in his career.

Brian Cain @ 9/22/2013 6:24 PM

Edward: Seniority is important, but it isn't everything. I am sure that you found yourself, at some point in your career, wondering why an under-performing coworker was given certain privileges just because that had been there longer than you. Seniority should denote experience, not privilege. Performance should determine that.

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