Bridging The Generational Gap In The Work Place

generation gapDo you know that up to five hours can be lost in a week as a result of intergenerational conflicts? Millennials have begun to flood the workplace over the last several years and the baby boomers don’t have plans to retire any time soon.  How can we get the generations to play nicely in the sandbox?

Baby Boomers have many years of experience that helps them do well in their jobs and makes them experts in the field.  Millennials are experts at technology and bring in fresh ideas and a new approach to work.  This is a great combination of skills if utilized well in the workplace.

But there are a few things that contribute to the generational conflict. For starters, Baby Boomers raised the Millennial generation, so while they aren’t working with their own kids, it essentially feels like they are.  Millennials have a vastly different outlook on life than their parents.  In fact, these two generations don’t see eye-to-eye politically, financially, or culturally.  For example, the Millennial generation is the most diverse in the United States history- more than 4 of every 10 young persons come from a non-white background-which can change the cultural dynamics of the office immensely.  And, they’re the biggest generation since the Baby Boomers, which gives them more sway in workplace culture than previous generations.

We have some simple advice to help you save those 5 hours of lost productivity by utilizing each generation’s skills and fostering ways to bring the Millennials and Baby Boomers together.

The Learning Curve

Millennials: Appreciate the fact that the Baby Boomers have many years of experience and are, in fact, experts in their field.  While innovation is good, sometimes the best way to approach a situation has already been tried and tested.  Be humble enough to ask questions and remember that you’re still learning.

Baby Boomers: Respect that Millennials are not just willing to learn from you, they want to.  In order to do that, they need feedback.  This is not in response to a constant need to inflate their ego- it’s actually how they’ve learned their whole lives.  Millennials grew up with teachers, parents, and coaches giving feedback on a daily basis.  So give feedback, positive and negative, to the millennial.  You may be surprised how much a little feedback can help them accomplish the task well.

Employers: Offer mentorship programs to bring your Millennials and Baby Boomers together. You’ll not only be building in time for training and feedback, but you’ll be helping workplace dynamics as each generation gets a chance to know one another.

Punching the Clock

Millennials: Baby Boomers have worked long and hard for many years and have set the work culture of today.  They view working a regular schedule and face-time in the office as a representation of your commitment to the company and your job. While you might be equally productive working from home and enjoy varying your hours, respect that set office hours, early mornings, and office buildings have served Baby Boomers well in their own careers. Do your best to abide by those structures.

Baby Boomers: Work-life balance is an extremely important value to the Millennial generation. Millennials are plugged in and to achieve work-life balance they desire flexible hours and remote work options.  Remember, it’s the same skills that make them able to restore that document you accidentally deleted.  Just because you don’t see them on your same schedule does not mean their work isn’t getting done.  Try not to worry about where they worked on a project and whether they were in by 8:30, and instead focus on the end result.

Employers: Set expectations. To help bridge this difference in the two generations, set expectations that are compatible with the Millennials and the Baby Boomers whether that is a set number of days in the office, a timeframe employees must work in, or a way of tracking work and accountability.  After setting these expectations, communicate the expectations to everyone on your team so each employee knows what they should do and what is expected of their colleagues.

The generation gap is not insurmountable.  Baby Boomers and Millennials can work well together if given the right tools.  Understanding the differences of each generation and instilling work place practices to bring these two groups together can be what your office needs to break free from the conflict and succeed as a team.

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