By | Samantha Trejo Pichardo
In recent years, the topic of generational conflict has become increasingly common, especially in the workplace. As the generations clash on differing – and at times contrasting – ideas of how work is perceived and performed, it can create difficulties an organization must address if business is to run smoothly. Below is a brief look into the differences between the generations, as well as a few strategies in overcoming the issues arising from the generational divide.
First, it’s important to stress that every person is different. Individuals, while they may fall into certain categories, like age groups, do not necessarily follow the perceived norms of said group. This is especially true when dividing people by generation. That being said, the events, technology, societal changes, etc., that occur during someone’s formative years can have a profound influence later in life. It’s from these shared experiences that certain traits, unique expectations and perspectives develop for an age group.
An example of this is how an increase in global terrorism and the rapid growth of the Internet influenced Generation Y, or millennials, to become the first global-centric generation. With almost constant access to information due to rapidly evolving technology and an increase in educational programming, this age group has become the most educated generation of workers today, although that title is soon to be passed to Gen Z.
There are many ways in which generational differences might come to a head in the workplace. For instance, there’s stereotyping. Potentially coming from any age group, these unfair characterizations or critiques often pervade the workplace. It could be a Baby Boomer labeling someone younger as lazy, or a Gen Zer claiming an older colleague is out-of-touch based on feelings regarding the entire group.
Another way issues might surface is through differing communication styles. Because of the technology available during the timeframe, each generation has a preferred means of communicating. As older generations characteristically prefer face-to-face, they may become frustrated when spoken communication is ignored or seen as having less value than a message sent via email or social media.
How can managers motivate the myriad generations to work in harmony? While there is no easy answer, it typically comes down to expanding the current communication strategies in place. Reaching all team members may mean the same message must be made available in multiple formats. It may also involve enhancing mentoring practices. Often a way to share perspectives while simultaneously transferring operational knowledge, a mentor program could help those of different backgrounds see eye-to-eye.
To keep the workplace functioning optimally, it’s essential for those in management to gain a better understanding of how generational differences are affecting company culture and teams as a whole. Identifying the causes of conflict makes it easier to resolve – even if it’s the result of simply being born at different times.
For additional strategies to help bridge generational divides in the workplace, please see the accompanying resource by Goodwill Car Donations.