Mixing the generations in the work place has its advantages and it challenges, as each generation has its own strengths, as well as some solutions offered. Generational differences, affects how people communicate, might affect misunderstandings, high employee turnover, absenteeism, difficulty in attracting employees and gaining employee commitment.
The challenge is the clash of communication styles and work ethics that can create cultural chaos. Members of each generation may not be especially interested in learning about new perspectives or ways of doing things. Another obstacle is the amount of change that inter-generational mingling at the Workplace brings with it. Many people resist change, feeling more comfortable leaving things the way they are. Diversity of any kind often brings tensions.
Generational differences can affect everything, including recruiting, building teams, dealing with change, motivating, managing, and maintaining and increasing productivity.
The advantages are that Teams and groups can gain an edge if they learn how to help each other: for example older employees can stay motivated to utilize their wealth of experience and talent, and learned to trust and leverage the younger ones skills.
Understanding the key themes for each age group, which we discussed in previous posts, can build a base for understanding and can reduce stereotypes, prejudice and discrimination. This is a great opportunity to share our experiences, ideas, skills and innovations. We also demonstrated how each generation (Matures, Boomers, Gen X & Gen Y) was affected and shaped by the times they lived; now we can reap the benefits each generation has to offer by understanding them, learning to communicate better, increase productivity, better face changes and develop a more respectful workplace.
The first challenge we need to face is to attack the myths and stereotypes about each generation. Stereotyping people based on their age is a common problem, and it breeds suspicion and distrust, the most common myths are:
- Stereotypes about Gen Y is that they are self-absorbed, and feel entitled as they rather trade high pay to flexible schedules and a better work-life balance and avoid working long hours and overtime
- Younger employees might view infrequent, more subtle feedback from older colleagues as proof that they are cold, distant, passive-aggressive or unwilling to communicate
- People quit learning when they get old, they are rigid and dogmatic, and stop being creative.
- Older employees resent to be told what to do; well don’t we all? Older people stopped being creative:
- Older people are less productive and just waiting to retire, they have higher absenteeism and accident rates
- Baby Boomers define themselves by what they do professionally, they sacrificed a great deal to get where they are in their career, so they believe that both Generation X and Generation Y should pay their dues and conform to a culture of overwork. Baby Boomers may criticize younger generations for a lack of work ethic and commitment to the workplace.
- Boomers believe in ranks and may have a hard time adjusting to workplace flexibility trends. They believe in “face time” at the office and may fault younger generations for working remotely.
Examples of Communication gaps
- When a boss tells a baby boomer need to get the report done when they get a chance, they hear it as an order to be done now, when Xer hears it as an observation, will get to it on time
- Appraisal time: Mature manager offers a nice monetary bonus for a project well done. Gen X is ungrateful as they didn’t I get it 6 months ago when the project was finished. Gen X needs immediate gratification.
- A GEN X manager tells a Boomer that he has been working too hard and should take some time off to take his family on vacation. The Boomer answers that he doesn’t work for vacation but to get promoted and get ahead.
A diverse team of different generations working together to recommend a solution to a nasty problem, the cons of the situation is that after two weeks nothing is done as:
- The Matures are looking for hand written notes and step by step request to follow
- Boomers don’t like to work independently, and want meetings, expect to work 24/7
- Xers don’t want to hear about work out of work
- 4Yers don’t want any meetings, Emails only.
Next post is the final one; we will discuss the inclusion culture, case studies as well as suggested solutions.
Till then, remember Diversity starts at home.
Diversity Consultant – Social Media Strategist
Sahar Consulting, LLC.