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The Generation Situation - Generations in the Workplace

Within your workplace, you have at least two, if not three different generations of employees. It’s entirely possible that you may have four generations, and depending on your organization, product, or industry, you may even have five, with birthdates spanning over 100 years. Though the oldest and the youngest of these both aspire toward structure and stability, the results of their personal and professional experiences could not be more different.

 

The chart below outlines key characteristics of each generational group:

 

 

Traditionalists

(Silent Generation)

Baby Boomers

Gen X

Millennials (Generation Why)

Generation Z (Zoomers)

Life experiences

Great Depression

WWI

WWII

Television

Civil rights

Vietnam War

Moon landing

Latch-key kids

Columbine

Personal computers

9/11

The Internet

Introduction of social media

Mass shootings

Climate change

COVID-19

Communication style

Write to me

Call me

Email me

Text me

DM me

Work is:

An obligation

Expected

A challenge

A means to an end

Constantly evolving

Work style

Disciplined

Loyal

Respectful of authority

Workaholic

Competitive

Dedicated

Efficient

Self-reliant

Resilient

Ambitious

Tenacious

Tech-savvy

Intense

Pragmatic

Project-oriented

Motivated by:

Tenure

Bonuses

Recognition

Monetary rewards

Freedom

Time off

Autonomy

Trust

Opportunity for growth

Involvement

 

Knowing this, how do you lead your team when their communication styles, work ethic, and values may differ so greatly?


Build trust. Through ice-breakers and team building exercises, create opportunities for your team members to get to know and to trust each other. Allow them to share their individual experiences and how those situations shaped their personal and professional lives. Foster an open environment – one that encourages reciprocity, transparency, and honesty – and provide space for all employees to ask and answer questions in an engaging, supportive manner.


Develop mentorship. We often think of mentors as being older to younger, but in this cross-generational workspace, that’s not the case. Institute a mentor program in which team members from different generations are encouraged to work together. What does a tech-savvy Gen Y employee offer to a Boomer? What can a Gen Xer share with Gen Y about resilience and adaptability? Allow your team to use life experiences and real examples to tell their stories in a teaching environment.


Manage the person, not the position. As a Leader, you must meet each person where they are. There is no one-size-fits-all skill set for any role, and no singular stereotype for any generation. Each person requires an individual approach to their specific needs. Regardless of age, experience, or education, each person on your team has a unique desire to achieve their success. As the Leader-in-charge, it is your obligation to provide specifically for each team member regardless of age or experience. Recognize and appreciate each person’s contributions fully. Provide feedback in a manner appropriate to the individual, and cultivate a safe setting in which they can provide feedback to each other.


Regardless of the age span, your team has the potential to learn from each other. Within the right environment and dependent on your leadership, they will learn as much from each other as they will from you. And that is an amazing thing.



vector image of five generations of people





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