COMMUNICATIONS: THE GENERATION MIX AT WORK
Growing Your Business | Global Strategic Management Solutions
The newest diversity issue on the block is generational diversity. Age has taken its place beside gender, race, and culture as a way to define what binds some groups of people together and drives other groups absolutely crazy. If you have parents who grew up during the Great Depression, siblings who witnessed the turbulent 60s and Watergate, or teenagers who zip effortlessly around the Internet, you know all about generational clashes and collisions.
When it comes to the workplace, it’s no surprise that age is “up.” On one hand, the aging U.S. population is working longer and longer. On the other, demand for new young talent is skyrocketing. And in the middle, organizations are downsizing, upsizing, merging, and acquisitioning at such a rate that people of all ages are thrown together more quickly and more intensely than ever before.
Scrambling to respond to an unpredictable, market-driven economy, most organizations have found themselves in a quandary. They’ve finally figured out how to recruit young talents, only to watch them clash with older, seasoned employees over issues like work ethic, respect for authority, dress codes, and every work arrangement imaginable. And they’re not sure what to do about it.
We hear cross-generational complaints every day, from people of every age in every industry. For example:
• “No one wants to pay their dues any more,” complains a 56-year-old. “They want the corner office right now without earning it—or sacrificing for it. These young people just don’t have our work ethic.”
• “If I could change one thing about my job,” says a twentysomething, “it would be the corporate people I have to deal with day in and day out—stuffy, been-there-longer-than-God types, dead set against any type of change.”
• A 19-year-old explains: “The oldest boss doesn’t like kids. He doesn’t want to talk to you. He grunts in acknowledgment that you’re there. He thinks what older people are doing is more important.”
• “We’ve been receiving training in our office on all kinds of diversity issues,” a 62-year-old legal assistant confides after butting heads with a 26-year-old colleague. “But I never knew age was one of them. I do now!”
There is no doubt about it, managers like you are tackling age-related challenges every day. Some of them tell us they’re having difficulty integrating young workers into their “traditional” workplace. Others claim they can’t motivate older staffers close to retirement to learn anything new. A fifty something supervisor wants to get rid of her stodgy peers and work only with enthusiastic twenty somethings. A thirty something store manager complains his new teen hires have no sense of customer service.
After our extensive work on Generations X and Y, the next management challenge in the new economy was obvious: how to handle this “generation mix.” What insights, skills, and best practices would managers need in order to steer colliding beliefs, values, and attitudes toward collaborative team efforts? Visit our managers training section to see how communication training can assist with your generational diversity issues.