In the past the work environment use to be a lot less
intricate as it mainly consisted of the old-timers and the know-it-all, young
hotshots. Today, the workplace mix is a lot more complicated. For the first
time in history, there are four generations working side by side: the Baby
Boomers (born 1946-1964), Generation X (born 1965-1976), Generation Y
(1977-1995), and the Centennials (born after 1996).
At work, generational differences can affect everything,
including recruiting, building teams, dealing with change, motivating,
managing, and maintaining and increasing productivity. Millennials and Gen X
represents talent, while Baby Boomers represent skill. A younger group brings
fresh ideas, but the older colleagues have the expertise to bring those ideas
to execution. The benefits of a multi-generational workplace can only be
realized when each generation realises and starts to appreciate what the others
bring to the table.
When you have to work with colleagues from different
generations there can be challenges as different age groups have different ways
of doing things. Here are some tips to help you work alongside people from all
older generations prefer talking face-to-face or on the phone, and the
younger generations are much more use to text-based messages like email and
instant message. When you have to work with somebody from a different
generation understand their preference. You are more likely to get cooperation
when you use a communication method that they prefer and feel comfortable
We all see the world through our own
generational filter. The experiences of our youth shape our points of
Research has shown that Baby Boomers values personal growth and team
involvement. They are labelled as the “me generation”, privileged to be able to
focus on themselves. Boomers identify with accomplishments and with
achievements that were obtained at work, and personal gratification. They are
ambitious, highly-educated, and multi-taskers with a willingness to work long
hours. This generation grew up in organizations with large corporate
hierarchies, rather than flat management structures and teamwork-based job
On the other hand Generation X has learned to be sceptical of just about
everything. So when you have to work alongside this generation be
straightforward with them – don’t try to sugar-coat anything. Do not expect
them to “give their life to the job” and refrain from giving them too much
extended hands-on supervision.
Finally, the millennial employee is interested in feedback on their
performance. More than any other generation these individuals like to
understand if they are doing their job well and will work much better alongside
you if they are being coached rather than managed.
The key to teamwork with colleagues from different age groups is to always
try and find the commonality. If too much emphasis is placed on differences,
there is a risk of not bridging the generational gap due to a lack of
leveraging commonalities that bring employees together.
generation feel that trust is important and that it must be earned.
People need to show that they know what they are talking about (credibility),
do what they say they will do (reliability), and keep the other person’s
interests at heart (sincerity).
Employees from all three generations desire many of the same things in the
workplace, including respect, flexibility, fairness, and the opportunity to do
interesting and rewarding work.
Recognising and understanding generational differences can
help everyone learn to work together more effectively and transform
your workplace from a generation war zone to a productive team.
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