Dealing with Multiple Generations in the Workplace
These days, most workplaces are multi-generational. Currently, in the workforce, there are Generation Z, Millennials, Generation X, Generation Y, Baby Boomers, and the Greatest Generation. With all of these, the employee age range is vast and differences, real or imagined, can lead to generational conflict in a corporate hierarchy. As a result, with each new generation entering the workforce, all of the preceding generations have to adapt. Indeed, all sides seek to adjust to make the transition smooth. While all sides need to remain respectful, everyone also needs to be flexible. As each side tries to work together and learn from one another, there can be some challenges. Below, let’s review two of the biggest, and what at team leader can do to smooth multi-generational communication and interaction.
One of the most obvious potential challenges to a multi-generational workplace is communication style. Traditionally, the more senior generations tend to communicate with more formality. And, tied into that, the older generations will use in-person conversations or phone calls as communication methods instead of emails, IMs, or texts. Additionally, with the older generations be very formal in those communications themselves. For example, their emails communications tend to be more formal and more complete – complete sentences, no spelling errors, and no abbreviations. In contrast, communication methods with the younger generations will tend to have all of those informalities and mistakes. And, with those mistakes, the younger generation does not understand why those mistakes upset their superiors.
To resolve that potential conflict, experts agree that it requires everyone one the team to be on their best behavior. To that end, each team member should try to work with the other members of the team as they would like to be treated. In this instance, Gen X, Y, Z, and the Millennials will need to be a little more formal in their communications with those who are senior, and try not to have any mistakes or spelling errors. Simultaneously, as long as it is not an official communique, court document, or the like, the traditionalists should try to be a little more forgiving.
Generational Perspectives on Work-Life Balance
Almost stereotypically, the more senior generations are seen as hard-working, loyal, and committed – Traditionally, these employees, now very senior, do not want and do not let anything interfere with work. In contrast, Gen X, Y, Z, and the Millennials, typically, are more interested in employment with work-life balance. In seeking a work-life balance, Gen X, Y, Z, and the Millennials would not let work interfere with a family/personal event. Also, more traditionally, the older generation believes that hard work and long hours are the sources of success. More significantly, the younger generations believe that work product and social conscience are important.
So how do the various generations resolve their work/life balance issues? To resolve that potential conflict, employers can help. Team leaders can encourage employers can offer more flexibility to all generations. Indeed, all employees would like an opportunity to be able to work from home and manage their schedules remotely – in some instances, would even take a lower salary to have more control and flexibility.
What we have seen from these two examples is that, while there may be some differences between the generations, there are opportunities for employers to create improved communication methods and an improved work place environment for all employees. Indeed, because each generation has different ideas to contribute, employers can leverage these diverse work styles and individual team-members knowledge and capabilities to achieve overall team results.