I work with young people. I mean, really young people. People under 60.

Because I’m not under 60 (don’t ask), I think of myself as something of an expert on how different generations interact in professional settings. And let me tell you, it ain’t pretty.

I’ve heard snarly comments about “those old fogeys” and “dem snot-nosed kids.” I’ve attended meetings in which baby boomers sat on one side of the table glaring at the millennials on the other side, while the Gen Xers and Gen Yers leveled the evil eye at one another from opposite ends. I’ve witnessed heated arguments and shouting matches and fisticuffs. It got so bad one time ...

OK, OK, I made all that up. Sorry. The fact is, I’ve been in the workforce a long (long) time, and, yes, I’ve seen my share of disagreements among colleagues. I’ve had my share of disagreements with colleagues. But as far as I can remember, not one of those conflicts had a darn thing to do with the ages of the folks involved. In most cases, conflicts were resolved and decisions were made the way professionals are supposed to accomplish such things — that is, professionally — however young or old they may have been.

At the same time, it would be disingenuous not to acknowledge that each generation of leaders and staff working side by side in business today — including in hospitals and health systems — tends to have defining characteristics that set it apart from the others. While recognizing that there are exceptions to every rule, we can generally agree that millennials — people born between 1982 and 2004 — are more comfortable with and adept at using information technology than are previous generations. Sociologists and others tell us they also tend to be quick learners, flexible in their thinking, comfortable with change and, when it comes to their jobs, eager to move around and up in an organization — or from one organization to another.

This month’s cover story warns that the health care field lags when it comes to fully understanding the professional and lifestyle preferences of millennials, and provides real-life examples of how some hospital leaders are preparing their younger colleagues — and their organizations as a whole — for the day when members of the millennial generation dominate boards, C-suites and departmental management. That day is coming sooner than a lot of you may think, and the future of your hospital is at stake.