Getting the Different Generations to Play Nice in the Workplace
August 11, 2016
“What’s the matter with these kids today? They come in acting like they own the company?”
“Why can’t they accept the fact that times are changing? There have been advances in technology and they won’t use it!”
“They think they’re going to get my job? I’ve been a loyal employee for 30+ years. I have knowledge that is older than them.”
“I don’t want his job. I want to take his knowledge and share it in a way that makes sense.”
With the influx of Millennials into the workplace, much has been written about the differences in handling three or more generations. The real insight is that all generations want the same things: respect, a voice, to have meaningful and purposeful work, to make a difference, and to belong.
The experience of the Boomers and Gen X-ers combined with the tech-savvy, highly-educated Millennials, has the power to take our workforce to a whole new level. So, what can we do in the workplace that honors the knowledge and experiences of each generation, and allows each to feel respected and heard? In my experience with clients, it actually turns out to be the same for all.
Create opportunities for employees to recognize the strengths of other generations. Different ideas, ways of doing business, and new personalities create vulnerability in any group. Create a process for integrating “newbies” to the team that will help everyone feel respected and safe.
Provide feedback and positive reinforcement. All employees, especially the Millennials who are just entering the workforce, want to know if they are measuring up to what is expected. Let them know it’s okay to make mistakes when one is learning a job, as long as there is a plan for improvement. This promotes positive work environments and generates confidence in one’s abilities.
Help employees understand how their work is connected to the greater good. A recent client (Millennial) was concerned about the amount of leftover food that was produced in her bakery. She invited the bakers to come up with a schedule that would reduce the amount of leftovers, which in turn, decreased material costs and resulted in raises for everyone. Connected now to the greater good internally, my client went back to her staff and asked how they could use the reduced leftovers to benefit others in the community. The entire staff wholeheartedly embraced the idea and now the bakery delivers food to under-privileged children in their area. Now employees are working together much better, the workplace atmosphere is more positive, production is up, and customer service is better than ever.
Create formal processes for leadership development. Every employee wants opportunities to move into positions that are a “right fit” for them. This requires developing a myriad of skills that are most often associated with leadership.
Engage and include employees in a variety of opportunities. Being exposed to different jobs or aspects of the business creates new understanding. When a change is needed, include employees in discovering the problems and solutions. This shows them that you respect, trust, and believe in their ability to create that change.
Use technology to your advantage. Where possible, allow employees to work remotely and telecommute. Set parameters for expectations including timelines, and then hold them to it with weekly review meetings. Give employees access to collaborative workspaces where ideas can be bounced back and forth, and fleshed out. Two heads, or more, really are better than one.
Stress the importance of communication. Over-communication is better than insufficient communication. Encourage communication about everything – including difficult situations where there is frustration, confusion, impatience, or anxiety. Don’t expect that communication styles will be the same. You may need to provide coaching to help everyone involved learn how to talk with each other effectively and with a sense of caring about the other.
Relate projects to goals. When assigning projects, in addition to the process of how it will get done, ensure team members know why the task or project matters. This appeals to their shared sense of purpose.
Create a shared leadership dynamic rather than hierarchal. Encourage members to work together to find the best way to achieve the project goals. Leadership can be shared between members based upon the specific work. Under this dynamic, they have to build trust by understanding each other’s strengths and abilities. Foster inter-generational sharing: experiences using specific examples and reasons why certain approaches are likely to work better, questions to create clarity and innovation, and technology that might aid the project.
So really, having the different styles and strengths of each generation working together is an absolute recipe for success. Just be sure everyone is contributing in the kitchen and isn’t looking for a free meal.
If your business is experiencing a “generation divide”, we can help! For more information on how to transform mindsets and retain great employees – no matter the age – contact Joy at www.maximizeyourleadership.com.