If you find it tough to relate to people at your company who are not part of “your generation,” you may want to take a look in the mirror. Are you trying to get to know the person as an individual, or as a member of a generational group? If it is the latter, the communication breakdown may be on you.
Tuning-in the stereotype
Stereotypes abound about Generation X, Generation Y, and Baby Boomers. Whether it is their approach to technology, their work ethic, their willingness to engage in collaboration, or what they choose to wear to work, each group may struggle to find the common ground they need to work together.
Resolving generational conflict
Research by Linda Gravett and Robin Throckmorton, authors of Bridging the Generation Gap, found that 68 percent of Baby Boomers feel younger people do not have as strong a work ethic as they do, making their own work harder to get done.
At the same time, Gen Yers perceive their older colleagues to be set in their ways and unwilling to adapt to new technology and the rapidly evolving social media universe.
Caught in the middle is Generation X, who, as the stereotype goes, looks at the world today and sees itself being outshined in the nonconformity realm by Generation Y.
So how do you turn all this conflict around? Approach your work and your interaction with colleagues with an open mind. If you are a Baby Boomer who has been reluctant to embrace things like Twitter and Facebook or you have never heard of a QR code, step out of your comfort zone and see what these tools have to offer personally and professionally.
If you are part of Generation Y and you pull out your iPhone during meetings, leave it at your desk next time. Make arrangements to meet with a client in person rather than on a conference call or through an email exchange.
And if you are part of Generation X and you have become resentful of Gen Yers’ non-conformist approach, take the high road and try to incorporate the strengths of these other groups into your approach at work.
“The majority of us think the correct way, and the only way, is our way,” writes Greg Hammill, a human resources specialist and director at Fairleigh Dickinson University’s Silberman College of Business. “In business, as well as in personal life, that is just not true. To work effectively and efficiently, to increase productivity and quality, one needs to understand generational characteristics and learn how to use them effectively in dealing with each individual.”