Generations in the workplace are a hot topic, and for the most part, you don’t have to convince people that generations really do matter. In a survey released by the Pew Research Center a few years ago, “79% of Americans say there are major differences in the point of view of younger and older adults.”
Essentially, we recognize there is a generational gap, and that this generational divide can cause real problems at work. Now that we recognize it, we must learn to manage the generational gap at work. If we don’t, the great divide could seem as large as the Grand Canyon.
So how can we learn to work together effectively and constructively so we can achieve team goals? Below are some tips to help you close the generational gap in your workplace.
Tip #1: Let Go
There is an old saying that says, “labels are for jars, not for people,” and that certainly is true for generational labels. Your coworkers do not fit nice and neatly into one of these generational labels. A whole host of other things impact who a person is and why they behave the way they behave including: parenting, relationship with technology, education, economics, personality traits, etc.
Does that mean we forgo trying to understand the generations? Absolutely not! Jason Dorsey, the Gen Y Guy, says generational labels are “powerful clues to where to start to connect with and influence people of different ages.”
Along that same line, I think it’s important to check our own personal view of how we think about other generations. Do you feel that your generation is the best generation and that the rest just need to grow up or shut up? Be willing to check the assumptions, preconceived notions and biases you have about other generations and then let them go. In the end, be willing to get to know the person for who they are, not just what their generation says about them or what you think about their generation.
Tip #2: Seek to Understand
Have you ever heard yourself utter the phrase, “I don’t understand kids these days, why do they think it’s okay to…….” If so, you are not alone. Part of the generational divide is that we don’t take enough time to truly understand the other generations’ mindset. The truth of the matter is that growing up in different eras causes people to see things differently.
If you want to cross the generational divide, you have to be willing to take some time to ask folks from other generations what events, trends, and people impacted their first 15-20 years. That will help you begin to understand how they see the world. Then as bestselling business author Eric Chester says, “Once you have understanding, you can get cooperation and connection.”
Tip #3: Get out of Your Generation
Ask yourself, “How can I get out of my generational mindset and connect with a person from a different generation?” We cannot create a one-size-fits-all working relationship, but instead must tailor our interactions and communications to best meet the needs of each other. You can get started by asking your coworkers some simple questions:
- What can I do to best communicate with you?
- How and when do you want to receive feedback?
- What does work life balance/integration mean and look like to you?
- What is the best type of reward and/or recognition that you can receive?
And then, be willing to share what you need from your coworkers to be the best team player possible.
Generations in the workplace are here to stay, and with two more on the horizon, it’s important to learn how to maximize the strengths of each generation. These three tips will help you cross the generational divide and close the gap that may be holding your team and/or organization back from being the best it can be.
About the blogger
As an Employee Assistance Program (EAP) Trainer with The Village Business Institute, Dawn Kaiser lives her passion to energize, encourage, and equip individuals to live stronger. She is a motivational speaker, writer, blogger, teacher, leader and positive-thinker extraordinaire. Dawn draws on more than twelve years of experience in the Human Resource/Organizational Development field and has a Bachelor’s of Business Administration and a Master of Education. She is also a certified HR Professional.
Dawn specializes in communication, leadership, high performance teams, and personal development. Dawn also enjoys unleashing hope in her community and around the world through her speaking, writing, and volunteer opportunities.
For more information about The Village Business Institute, go to www.TheVBI.org or call 1-800-627-8220.