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How to bridge the workplace generation gap and build cooperative teams and positive outcomes

We can face generational differences at work that challenge our understanding and appreciation of fellow employees. That’s not surprising, considering the three dominant generations currently represented in the workplace:

  • Baby Boomers – born 1946-1964 (youngest are 53)
  • Generation X – born 1965-1980 (youngest are 37)
  • Millennials (or Generation Y) – born 1981-2000 (youngest are 17)

Millennials, Gen Xers and Baby Boomers bring varied habits, values and communication styles with them to work. While these can complement each other for successful outcomes, they can also lead to rushes in judgment and differences of opinion. For example:

  • Baby Boomers may think that Xers are not team-focused and Millennials are too casual.
  • Xers may consider Boomers to be overly driven and Millennials to feel self-important.
  • Millennials may believe that Boomers are digitally ignorant and Xers are too demanding.

While these judgments can carry a degree of truth, they also can be based on stereotypes or limited past experiences. But whether on-the-mark or off-base, these perceptions can get in the way of trusting co-workers and getting work done.

In research for their book, Crucial Conversations: Tools for Talking When Stakes Are High, the authors (Patterson, Grenny, McMillan and Switzler) found that generational stereotyping causes a third of workers to waste about five hours a week on intergenerational conflicts. These distractions, of course, are detrimental to productivity and profits.

Perhaps you have witnessed this in your company. So, what can you do about it?

How to help your employees overcome generational obstacles and achieve positive results:

  • Accept that co-workers of another age may have different values, motivators and preferred methods of communication. Understand that “different” doesn’t mean “bad.”
  • Are you a younger employee? Learn from the experience of older co-workers. Are you an older employee? Stay open to new ideas and methods. Whether formally or informally, mentor one other.
  • Ask for assistance or guidance from someone older or younger than you. You will learn from their experience or fresh perspective while building a bridge over the generational communication gap.
  • Create work groups or project teams composed of employees of various ages. They will get to know and understand each other better, and the project will benefit from the varied perspectives.

Do you need more assistance with workplace communications, training, hiring or recruiting? At TriStarr, an HR consulting firm and recruiting/temp agency in Lancaster, Pa., we would be glad to partner with you for a solution to your HR challenges. The team at TriStarr’s professional staffing service has more than 60 combined years of administrative staffing, recruiting and HR consulting experience. Contact us online, or give us a call at (717) 560-2111.

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