Bridge the Workplace Generation Gap

Bridge the Workplace Generation Gap

How do you get recent college grads to respect the grandparents on the team? What do you do to improve collaboration between Gen X employees and Baby Boomers? Can you pair up people to emphasize their strengths and strengthen their weaknesses?

Leading a multigenerational workforce is a challenge. You can quickly alienate an entire demographic. Or you can put tremendous power behind your leadership momentum!

The Boomers

Baby Boomers may already feel irrelevant and obsolete. But they may be too loyal, respectful, and polite to complain. They’ll just feel undervalued as their confidence and morale deteriorates. Or they might smile at you but gossip behind your back.

You need to acknowledge their efforts with real sincerity. They respect face-to-face communication, so do it in person. They may also respect a handshake just as much as a contract. Don’t make promises to them you can’t keep or you risk losing all your credibility.

Know their strengths. Leverage those to build your bridges. They can be excellent role models when it comes to skills that younger workers often lack. Those include, for example, verbal and nonverbal communication. They probably understand how to write well, how to remember client birthdays, and how to observe business etiquette. They will also have a desire to impart their legacy. Engage them as mentors and they can be tremendously inspiring and feel appreciated.

But they’ll likely be baffled or disinterested when it comes to technology. So a smart strategy is to team them up with younger people eager to learn the ropes of the organization. In exchange for that, the Gen X or Gen Y employees can agree to help them solve technological challenges.

Generation X

Gen X employees – those now in their mid 30s to late 40s – are a walking contradiction. They are fiercely independent although they need constant encouragement. Don’t hover over them because they hate micro-management. But they like structure. So they make great organizers and are wonderful self-starters who can take a job and run with it. But give continual benchmarks, metrics, and feedback! Otherwise they’ll drift away while accusing you of being disinterested in their progress.

The Millennials

Gen Y/ Millennial Generation expects praise and takes it for granted. The Baby Einstein tribe is proud of their mad skills and global forward-thinking vision. Despite their community outlook they may have difficulty maintaining relationships. They don’t want to follow rules that don’t make sense, either. You have to respond to their skepticism and show them how your plan will help advance their career and lifestyle. They thrive on group collaboration but get bored easily.

Always try to include them. Don’t be afraid to give them responsibility– especially when it comes to high-tech and social media. Otherwise if you hold them back they will jump ship and go work for your competitors. Listen to their ideas and innovations. Those new ways of doing things can be extremely profitable.

The results you’ll accrue from working to get everyone on the same page will be to your credit. That’s how to enhance productivity and performance while putting rocket fuel into your leadership career acceleration plan.

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Sarah Hathorn is a leadership development mentor, executive presence coach, image and branding consultant, public speaker & author. She is the founding CEO of her own successful company, Illustra Consulting, and the creator of the proprietary Predictable Promotion System™.

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Copyright © 2012, Sarah Hathorn, AICI CIP, CPBS

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