What do we mean by generation gaps in the workplace?
A generation gap in the workplace is a difference in values, outlooks, behaviors, or communication styles between different generational groups.
Generation gaps are defined by gaps in work ethics and ideologies. Each successive generation has different expectations about what working life should be like. Generational differences have been studied since the early 1980’s. These studies indicate that significant differences exist between the values, attitudes and behaviors of each successive generation.
How do generation gaps pose difficulties for organizations?
Generation gaps pose difficulties for employers because they can lead to conflict in the workplace. They may also create barriers preventing inter-generational teamwork and collaboration at work. Employers need to address these challenges if they are to avoid them becoming performance obstacles. The workplace will only become more diverse in the future. Employers must therefore learn to adapt their management styles to encompass differing generational values and attitudes.
Generational differences add a layer of complexity to managing people at work, which needs to be understood by managers and HR professionals alike. Each generation has its own set of values, beliefs and behaviors that can affect the workplace. Understanding these differences is important in achieving their full potential to perform, collaborate and work well with others.
How can management bridge generation gaps?
Managers need to be aware of their own values in order to understand why they react the way that they do in certain situations. Understanding generational values then enables them to build relationships with each of their employees and establish values-based management practices.
Employees often prefer to be managed in a particular way, depending on their generational type. Each generation has its own set of characteristics and values that can affect how they want to be approached and managed. Understanding the differences between these generations is important for employers as it enables them to create effective management strategies tailored to each generation.
Leaders should prepare for the generational changes occurring in organizations because of increasing workforce diversity. The best way to bridge these gaps is by creating diverse teams with different generations working together harmoniously. By understanding how each individual operates, an employer can then adapt his or her approach accordingly and facilitate open communication between team members.
10 Ways Employers Can Approach the Generation Gap in the Workplace:
1. Maintain open communication with all employees.
2. Make sure that managers are aware of generational differences and learn how to adapt their management styles accordingly.
3. Educate new hires on what the organization expects from them in terms of workplace behavior and conduct. This helps everyone become clear on what is appropriate and expected at work, including dress code, work ethic and communication styles.
4. When problems arise, deal with them as they occur and involve everyone affected by the issue. Do not make assumptions about what happened or jump to conclusions. Ask for an explanation and then encourage individuals to work together to resolve the problem and restore harmony in the workplace.
5. Respect colleagues’ views, and encourage open and honest communication.
6. Avoid stereotypes and generalizations about certain employees because they create barriers between people and prevent open dialogue.
7. Encourage teamwork and collaboration among all generations – each can bring something different to the table that will benefit everyone in the long run.
8. Recognize work ethic differences, but do not simply attribute one to another. For example, some may believe that Millennials are lazy because they want to work fewer hours than Baby Boomers, but this does not necessarily mean that all Millennials are like that. Some Baby Boomers may also prefer casual dress for the office and working remotely or from home.
9. Encourage managers to build relationships with employees so everyone feels comfortable approaching them about issues at work.
10. Stress the importance of company culture and what it means to be a part-time or full-time employee of an organization. What is most important is that employees feel like they are valued and respected for their contributions, no matter which generation they belong to.
Understanding the main differences between the Various Generations in the Workplace:
In general, ‘Baby Boomers’ were born in the years following World War II and up to 1964. They are typically considered to be those who experienced a post-war economic boom and optimistic outlook on life and career advancement.
Gen Xers usually range from 1965 to 1979. They grew up in a changing world with many technological advancements and lived through global political changes. They are also considered to be more independent and less motivated by money, unlike Baby Boomers who tend to focus on financial security.
Millennials were born between 1980 and 2000, which means the oldest members of this generation are now approaching 40 years old. This generation is known for being technologically savvy, confident, optimistic and entrepreneurial. Millennials have also been identified as being ‘wired’ differently, meaning they communicate by email, text messages and social media instead of the traditional phone or face-to-face meetings.
Because aspects of each of these generations are unique to them, it is important to recognize where the differences lie so employers can prepare for them in their management styles.
Today, there are four main generations in the workforce:
1) Traditionalists (born before 1945);
2) Baby Boomers (born 1945-1964);
3) Generation Xers (born 1965-1980); and
4) Millennials or Gen Y’s (born 1981-2000).
This means that each generation represents a different age range, which may mean vastly different views on certain issues depending on their life experiences.
Millennials are known for being entrepreneurial, confident and more flexible than other generations because they had more flexible schedules growing up as children of working parents. It was common to see them playing outside with friends or participating in extracurricular activities instead of having strict work hours like Baby Boomers.
One of the biggest problems within an organization is conflict which can be caused by generational differences, but these issues can be reconciled with the right management approach and open communication between employees and employers.
The first step towards understanding and working together is to identify and eliminate any stereotypes about the various generations in the workplace to avoid misunderstandings. Everyone has the responsibility to collaborate effectively with each other, regardless of their age or generation, by doing what they can to be productive and positive team members who are willing to learn from one another.
Although stereotypes exist for all four generations in the workplace today, there are some that may be more prevalent than others.
For example, Baby Boomers may be perceived as being difficult to work with because they are set in their ways and have a ‘my way or the highway’ attitude. This is not necessarily the case for everyone within this age group, so it’s important to avoid making assumptions about a generation instead of getting to know them better.
Generation Xers are often criticized for being overly independent, hyper-critical and stressed out. This is not necessarily how they want to come across either, so it’s important to avoid making rash judgments about them based on their external attitudes.
Millennials or Gen Y’s tend to be stereotyped as being entitled, narcissistic and hard to please. They are also often labeled as ‘whiners’ or ‘overly sensitive,’ which is unfair because they simply know what they want and deserve, just like everyone else.
The Importance of Effective Communication:
To begin effective communication between generations in the workplace, it is important to understand where the conflict originates from. It may be caused by a breakdown of understanding or a lack of awareness towards generational differences that affect workplace dynamics and relationships. To avoid any misunderstandings, it is important for employers to establish an open line of communication with employees so both parties can voice their concerns and address any problems together as a team.
One way to do this by following the 5-step approach below:
1) Prepare to listen – When you are in the presence of others, make sure your phone is set to silent or airplane mode. If you need to take a call or answer an urgent email, excuse yourself politely in advance before doing so.
2) Wait for quiet – To avoid interrupting others when they are speaking, wait for them to finish before you begin to speak. This shows respect and will encourage everyone to listen more intently.
3) Use a pleasant voice – Avoid talking over others, mumbling or speaking too quickly because it can be hard for people to follow along with what you are saying. This causes tension and frustration which may lead to negative interpretations of your intentions towards them.
4) Avoid negative body language – If you find yourself rolling your eyes, crossing your arms or shaking your head while someone is speaking, it may come across as dismissive and disrespectful. Instead of focusing on the words being spoken, people will be more focused on how you are making them feel which can lead to misunderstandings. Try to remain calm and composed by physically relaxing your body.
5) Get to the point – When you are addressing something with someone, avoid bringing up every little detail that led up to it or all of the times they have done something wrong in the past. Stick to what is relevant and current without bringing unnecessary baggage into the conversation so it doesn’t become a blame game.
As a part of a different generation, it is important to be able to show others that you are willing to learn from them and understand where they are coming from. This way, you can prevent misunderstandings by communicating effectively with each other and building relationships based on respect for one another’s differences.