"Find a group of people who challenge and inspire you, spend a lot of time with them, and it will change your life." – Amy Poehler
In a simple black frame, on a shelf in my office sits a picture that never ceases to put a smile on my face. In it, 4 women stand side by side, faces full of toothy grins in front of my childhood home. From left to right stand a woman born in 1902, another in 1929, the third in 1957, and lastly, a gangly legged teen born in 1979. The not-quite-brown eyes and slightly oversized noses all share a similar stance and smile, but beyond that, the lives of these women share history and blood, but not much more. As it is in families, the generational differences are seemingly even more apparent in the workplace. However, let’s take a moment to more closely examine the myths and realities of multiple generations working together in an organization.
The shorthand for the five generations making up our workforce today include: Traditionalists (born before 1946 and value hard work), Baby Boomers (born between 1946-1964 and value loyalty), Generation X (born between 1965 and 1980 and value work-life balance), Generation Y (born between 1981 and 1996 and value innovation and change), and Generation Z (born between 1996 and 2015 and have grown up with the internet and in many cases aren’t even old enough to enter the workforce yet).
Jennifer Deal, a researcher with the Center for Creative Leadership conducted a study aimed at understanding and debunking generational stereotypes in the workplace. Interestingly enough, both the positive and negative attributes linked to each generation were called into question and the results indicated that perception and misunderstanding between the generations is more at play than actual differences in motivation, values, and work ethic. When independently asked, all generations have the same basic needs and goals in the workplace. Everyone wants respect, to trust their leadership, and values feedback so they can grow and develop.
How can managers address, circumvent, and counteract the negative stereotypes surrounding generational differences? Some simple solutions include:
Address Intrinsic Motivators. Employees like to know how they fit into the organization as a whole and that their roles are important. This helps build value and loyalty in one’s job and can give every team member a new perspective on not only their roles but the roles of others within the company.
Workshops. Workshops aimed at recognizing, celebrating, and openly discussing the commonalities across all generations of employees allows unique insight into every generation. Perhaps poll and sample some of the cited values, needs, and motivators of employees in all generations within the organization and perform an icebreaker to demonstrate that when certain traits are read, the sampling of people who identify with the trait are as diverse as the organization in general.
Communication skills. Any time a manager has the opportunity to work on communication skills, an organization benefits. Stepping outside of the generational scope, communication is key. As said by Bestselling Author, Jim Stovall, "You need to be aware of what others are doing, applaud their efforts, acknowledge their successes, and encourage them in their pursuits. When we all help one another, everybody wins." Learning to communicate with one another and understand one another really goes far in bridging the perceived generational gap in the workplace.
Build collaborative relationships. Find opportunities to pair cross-generational mentors and mentees. Studies reveal colleagues tend to learn more from one another than they do in formal training sessions. These relationships may allow for a deeper understanding between coworkers in different generation groups and also be a unique way to foster an atmosphere of acceptance and understanding.
When it comes to finding the peace and fulfillment of multigenerational teams within an organization, it may not always be picture-perfect, but that doesn’t mean with some time and effort a manager can create an atmosphere full of acceptance, collaboration, and understanding. To learn more about developing a management style suited for a multi-generational workplace, contact us today. We provide tools to expand your leadership abilities and build a solid bridge to overcome the generational gap. Great leaders are crafted from time, dedication, commitment, and engagement. Let us help you and your organization succeed.