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A few weeks ago, mydad andI had a discussion about respect in the workplace. We've talked about how hard it is to lead generations when you're much older or younger than your team.
My father didn't understand why his direct reports responded to his voicemails with emails instead of calling him back, while I didn't understand his penchant for phone calls when the same information could also be transmitted via text.
Our disagreement sheds light on a common challenge in today's workforce: learning to collaborate with colleagues and appreciate the unique tastes, habits, and behaviors of colleagues who grew up in different times than we did.
The sad truth is that there can be age differences between managers (like my dad) and their team members (like me).hinder our mutual respectfor each other.
When we are fundamentally unable to relate to someone due to generational differences, we often resort to damaging stereotypes and blame each other for solvable problems, instead of working to understand and appreciate the differences that separate us. Ourwork performance and productivityare negatively affected by this.
For guidance on how to overcome this and see the many benefits of intergenerational work, I spoke with Professor Megan Gerhardt, director of leadership development at the University of Miami Farmer School of Business and author ofgenetic intelligence.
1) Challenge harmful stereotypes.
For the first time in modern history, there are five generations in the workforce. apparently all of usdemonstrate unique personality traits and values.
- The Silent Generation (born between 1925 and 1945; loyal, buttraditional)
- Baby Boomers (1946 to 1964; collaborator, butaversion to change)
- Generation X (1965 to 1980; independent, butcalvo)
- Millennials (1981 bis 2000;driven, but justified)
- Generation Z (2001 to 2020;progressiveButillegitimate)
These generalizations are mostly problematic. Gerhardt told me that the first step in overcoming age stereotypes and developing mutual respect is to debunk them.
"So much of the generational conversation in the news today is based on false stereotypes and clickbait headlines, instead of taking the time to understand the important differences that are part of our generational identities," Gerhardt said. When we assign negative or general traits to any group, we imply that its values, beliefs, and goals are fundamentally flawed.
It is valuable to learn about the realities that different generations have faced throughout their careers.
In reality, what we value as individuals is often influenced by events beyond our control.dictated by our experiences early in our lives and careers. Each generation entered the workforcecertain conditions,which ultimately helped shape our purpose, our passions, and our drivers for success.
For example, a recent college graduate who has and is starting their first job during the pandemicused to a remote setting, you may value flexible working and prefer to communicate digitally. On the other hand, someone who entered the job market during the Great Recession of 2008 may value the security and routine of work and prefer a predictable nine to five, five days a week.
The problem is that aging stereotypes go too far in assuming that everyone has responded to the milestones of their generation in the same way. These are assumptions that are often incorrect and can leave employees feeling isolated and judged before they even walk into the office. This in turn affects performance.A 2017 studyThe study, published by the NIH, found that "employees threatened by age-related stereotypes about job performance are less able to commit to their current job, less aligned with long-term career goals, and ultimately less psychologically adjusted.
While Gerhardt said we should avoid making assumptions about people based solely on their age, it makes sense to educate yourself about the realities different generations have faced throughout their careers. Understanding these nuances is essential to accepting one another, and it's even more important for those in leadership positions (like my father) and for those who aspire to be leaders one day (like me).
2) Communicate your preferences openly.
"Just as we wouldn't expect our actions to be accurately understood or widely accepted when we travel to other places," Gerhardt said, "neither should we expect our reasons for doing our jobs to be a certain way, people realize that They grew up and started their careers at different times.”
Instead, we need to be open about our preferences, especially when it comes to the way we communicate. Multigenerational managers can lead by example by helping their team members find ways to communicate clearly with one another. If you have direct reports that are both older and younger than you, ask your coworkers what types of interactions they are most comfortable with.
Take me and my father: He has decades of professional experience and understands that talking to clients and colleagues on the phone and meeting in person is important to building good, long-term relationships. However, I spent my formative years communicating via text and email. I find the fastest and most efficient format (similar to65% of Generation Z).
Just as there is no right or wrong way to work, there is also no right or wrong way to communicate. Show your direct reports that you are ready to step out of your comfort zone and meet them halfway. Compromise is key to finding a middle ground without bias, so try to view your differences as learning opportunities.
For example, you can switch between communication methods depending on the purpose of the conversation. Exchange emails for a faster and more efficient approach, but meet in person if the conversation requires more intimacy and relationship building.
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3) Respect the limits.
A broader representation of age groups at work has introduced new beliefs and values into the office. Taboo topics from the past, like diversity and inclusion, mental health, and gender roles, are on the rise.widely discussedin professional settings.
Just as a person's race, ethnicity, sex, gender, sexual orientation, religion, disability, social class, personality, and educational background affect their comfort in discussing these issues at work, so will your age and education.
Gerhardt explained thatInvestigationhas shown„The younger generations tend to be more progressive on social issues and prefer to talk about topics that were previously considered taboo in the workplace." He told me, "The willingness of younger employees to accept and normalize the discussion of these important topics leads to reduce the stigma traditionally associated with talking about it in the workplace.”
It is also important to think about how your employees areto feelon these topics will vary.
It is not necessary for everyone to agree, but it is important that they understand why the organization values the issues raised.
Especially when it comes to race and gender, social trends reportresearch bankConducted in 2020, the study shows that there are some measurable patterns regarding the beliefs of different generations of whites in that country. About two-thirds of Gen Z and Millennials say so, compared to about half of Gen X and Boomers and smaller proportions of the Silent Generation."
Additionally, according to the same report, "About six in 10 Gen Zers (59%) say online forms or profiles should include additional gender options, compared to half of Millennials, roughly four in 10 Gen Xers and Boomers (40% and 37%) and about a third of those in The Silent Generation (32%).
The biggest challenge you face as a manager of older and younger employees is respecting the different boundaries of each of your team members while maintaining your own values, boundaries, and ground rules.
To create an environment where everyone feels willing to ask for help, share their best ideas and take risks, psychological safety must be a priority, Gerhardt said, and a willingness to get involved," he told me. "The role of the manager is to provide constantly opportunities for these discussions, not forcing people to have a particular opinion or check a box."
He added: "When navigating these kinds of challenging topics, it can be helpful for managers to ground the conversation in a discussion of how the topics are relevant to the organization's overall values and mission."
When it comes to diversity and inclusion, for example, there are important legal, moral, and strategic considerations to consider. It is not necessary for everyone in the organization to agree or share the same priorities, but it is important that they understand why the organization prioritizes the issues discussed.
Gerhardt suggested facilitating discussions about common standards that work best for your team, rather than relying on the way things have always been done or emphasizing the preferences of one age group over another. He can also try to create change at the organizational level by talking to his employer about developing initiatives that encourage the older and younger generations to network and share knowledge, such as: B. Mutual mentoring programs.
4) Don't play favourites.
Finally, to create a culture where people of all ages can be vulnerable and learn from each other, Gerhardt advised managers to create an inclusive decision-making process that encourages open dialogue.
Take meetings one step further to ensure all voices are heard and considered. While this is often a good practice, leading multi-generational teams can face unique challenges. This is what a study with more than 6,000 millennials found, for example50% of the participants questioned their ability to succeed in the workplace., making them twice as concerned about their abilities as previous generations.
In my experience, these fears can lead to it.desire to prove ourselvesespecially in a group setting. My colleagues and I often share our opinions and perspectives without necessarily being asked. I've also seen our desire to be heard misinterpreted as arrogance by more experienced workers and managers. Relatives from older generations sometimes quickly bypass us,citing our lack of experience.
Instead of having an us vs. them dynamic at work, let's change the narrative going forward.
If you notice these patterns developing in your own meeting, or find yourself implementing these biases, change your approach. The next time you're frustrated because your younger coworkers are talking openly, control yourself. Instead of shutting them down, give them space to respectfully demonstrate their skills by asking questions and encouraging their involvement. If an older employee rushes to fire a younger team member, he or she responds by suggesting that the younger team member speak at that time. For example, you could say, "Michelle, do you have any ideas you'd like to add?"
Check in privately with the older team member and remind them that their ideas are welcome and valuable, even if someone is less experienced. This advice goes both ways. If you see a younger team member making assumptions about her more experienced colleague, ask her to change her behavior. Remind your team that diversity of thought helps increase the magnitude of new insights and enables organizations to make better decisions and complete tasks more successfully.
"When we move away from the mindset that cross-generational interactions are a win-lose situation, the possibility arises that cross-generational collaboration could lead to greater learning and success for all involved," Gerhardt said. “Each generation has something to teach and something to learn. We all have experiences and knowledge to share.”
Instead of having an us vs. them dynamic at work, let's change the narrative going forward.
there are chancesClosing the generation gapIt starts with communication, humility, and a deeper curiosity about the strengths and limitations of our team members and ourselves. It starts with the acceptance that we are fundamentally different people with equally valuable insights to offer.
End with respect and understanding. Finish with progress.