Even though people in the various generations often don’t agree, there is one thing they all agree on: Respect for each other in the workplace simply doesn’t exist. Those in the older generations (the Silent Generation and the Baby Boomers) think the younger workers of today are lazy and disrespectful. On the other hand, the younger generations (Generation X and the Millennials) think the older workers are stuck in their ways and too closed-minded.
Despite these differences, people from the varying generations must work together productively for the company to succeed. If they let their generational outlooks get in the way, conflict will result.
Use the following suggestions to overcome generational differences so everyone can get along:
Know each other’s preferences
In a nutshell, the Silent Generation and the Baby Boomers prefer face-to-face communication. They like consensus, and they expect everyone to respect authority. They don’t like conflict and will avoid it at all costs. Generation X and the Millennials love online meetings. They twitter each other and use e-mail the majority of the time. They’re not afraid to confront others; they want their voices heard. They dislike being on teams and prefer to work alone.
While we can’t automatically assume every single person in a particular generation behaves and thinks a certain way, knowing the generalities is a great first step. Therefore, take the initiative to learn about the other generations you work with. The more you understand their point of view and what events shaped their lives, the more you’ll be able to work with them without conflict.
Spend time with each other
Simply knowing each other’s preferences is one thing; it’s another to actually spend time learning from the person. Remember that learning and mentoring is a two-way street. Just as younger people can learn things from older people, the older generation can definitely learn from the “kids.”
As you do this, realize that you’ll likely have to make compromises. For example, a younger person can teach an older person about some new computer communication tool. The younger person will need to employ patience during the training, and the older person will need to keep an open mind to the new technology. You’ll also have to confront your own personal biases and work through them. Only then can you truly benefit from the interaction.
Be open to talking things out
The older people don’t understand what all the pierced noses and tattoos are about, while the younger people can’t comprehend how someone can be so loyal to a company. Instead of just wondering in silence, it’s time to talk it out – with the very people you don’t understand. As long as the conversation stays respectful and does not turn into an accusatory yelling match, it will be a healthy way to gain broader understanding of each other. The sooner you start the conversation, the quicker you’ll resolve differences.
Bridge the Gap
Remember to do the following to effectively communicate between generations:
• Know each other’s preferences
• Spend time with each other
• Be open to talking things out
Generational differences can be tough. However, when you are open and honest and take the time to really listen to each other, you can overcome any perceived differences – real or otherwise. A little generational understanding can go a long way to boosting the company’s bottom line.
I have noticed that when it comes to the older generations the biggest challenge they face is to cope up with the new technology. The first reaction when something new is introduced is, “its too complicated for me to understand”, and they tend to leave it as such. As you said, its hard for the youngsters and the older generation to work together because neither the older generation nor the youngsters can understand why there is such a difference in their way of perceiving things and both end up in conflicts.