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Mixing the Melting Pot

By Brian Thomas and Anthony Germany Jr.

Corporate trainer Dana Brownlee held a seminar a few years ago, where a manager in her late 50s strongly criticized several young employees on her team. She complained that Millennials are lazy and never return her phone calls. They’d rather respond by text or email. The manager was furious.  She remarked, “We need to stop emailing and pick up the %^$# phone!” While some of her frustration is understandable, it’s also sign of a larger issue.

Our workplace has changed.

Companies are multigenerational, with Baby Boomers (1946-1964), Generation X (1965-1979), Millennials (1980-2000), and even post-Millennials now working together.  While it’s dangerous to place a generational label on every employee, we often associate certain work styles, work cultures, and communication styles with particular generations.  Smart employers find ways to accommodate our multigenerational workforce to promote productivity and diminish hostility in the office. Here’s a good way to start:

  1. Facilitate Communication.

One of the biggest stumbling blocks to multigenerational harmony is the lack of honest and constructive communication.  Effective communication requires active engagement.  Leaders, managers, and employees all need to engage with each other to learn what works, and maybe more importantly, what doesn’t work in the workplace.  The responsibility isn’t just for the people at the top.  Smart companies encourage robust, thoughtful, and meaningful communications between everyone in the organization.

  1. Encourage Respect.

Respect is essential in cultivating good, productive relationships at work. Every employee can help drive the overall success of the organization.  Employees should be valued and respected for their unique contributions. But respect can mean different things to different generations.  Some studies suggest Baby Boomers, on average, respect promotions and higher salaries; whereas Millennials value flexibility and work-life balance.  This isn’t a matter of whether one approach is objectively better.  In a multigenerational workforce, companies should incentivize more than one measure of success if they want to recruit and retain the best talent.

  1. Promote Collaboration.

Collaboration leads to greater cohesion within your organization.  It’s as simple as that.  Smart companies are collaborative in everything they do.  Seasoned employees may have a wealth of institutional knowledge that they can share with younger employees. Younger employees can provide a unique perspective and creativity to help prior generations address seemingly intractable problems.

While these tips aren’t a panacea, they can help bridge our generational divide.  It’s important. Every generation has something valuable to offer.