Traditionalists. Boomers. Generation X. Millennials. Although it might sound like “The Avengers” or “X-Men” should follow suit in this category, these are not groups of superheroes. They are the generations that make up today’s workforce, and for the first time in the nation’s history, there are four of them working side by side. With such a diverse group of employees in one place, it’s easy to bump heads from time to time. Here are a few tips to overcome generational roadblocks, learn from each other, and work more productively together.
Practice the platinum rule
While the golden rule says, “do unto others as you would have them do unto you,” the platinum rule works better for communicating across generational lines: “do unto others as they’d like done unto them.” Call the person who responds better over the phone, give important issues face-time when necessary, use email, text or chat with coworkers and team members who work best online. Adjusting language, style, and delivery based people’s communication preferences will prevent misunderstanding and frustration.
Bridge the technology gap
Feeling like road kill on the technology highway? Frustrated with the company’s resistance to new, faster online tools? Adapting to technology is like learning a new language—it’s definitely easier the younger you are. There are plenty of two-year-olds who can play games and take pictures on a smartphone before they’re even potty-trained. But when it comes to technology at the workplace, everyone needs to get on board and work together. Be patient with yourself and others through the learning process, don’t let pride get in the way of asking for help, and use tech training as a team building exercise and opportunity to collaborate across generational lines.
Overcome the entitlement divide
Employees of all ages and levels want to be recognized for their hard work and contributions – but issues of entitlement arise when the cleverly dubbed ‘gimme’ generation of Millennials asks for things like an expensive ergonomically correct chair within the first week of work, an extra 30 minutes vacation time because they skipped a lunch one day, or a big promotion and raise after one year. These requests may seem disrespectful to management, showcasing a lack of work ethic or professionalism. Perhaps managers could try harnessing the ambition without dwelling on the entitlement. Use these moments as mentorship opportunities, and help young employees develop the maturity, skills and experience to be great leaders.
Find common ground
Multigenerational employees have a lot more in common then they may think. For example, employees across all generations place high value in family and personal life, respect leaders they can trust, and appreciate constructive feedback. Respecting what each person has to contribute and understanding differences in work styles is all part of working together successfully.