“Intergenerational interactions may provide more options and optimism for organizations grappling with multiple generations in the workforce.”
It is widely reported in the literature and the media that intergenerational differences can cause challenges in the workplace. Generational stereotypes are widespread in the news media, and they can and do influence public opinion. Negative assumptions about coworkers of different generations can have unfortunate consequences, such as lower morale and higher stress levels.
Common points of tension between employees of different generations include the pace of work and new approaches to solving problems or accomplishing everyday tasks. It is crucial to not shy away from these issues because this type of dialogue can be extremely useful. Combining the knowledge and perspectives of multiple generations can help an organization thrive. Intergenerational interactions in the workplace can be the key to building a strong and sustainable workforce.
Is the generation gap real?
In many work settings, people view generational differences as barriers rather than bridges. Sometimes, the perception is that the older generation is holding the team back by clinging to tried-and-true ways of doing things. Or the younger generation may be perceived as naive and unprofessional.
Instead of viewing the multigenerational workplace as a challenge, we should view it as an opportunity. My research found that when management remains focused on rewarding performance and promoting open communication, interactions between members of different generations are less tense and more productive.
Five reasons to encourage intergenerational interactions
1. Opportunity to develop potential talent: When people make decisions based on generational bias, they limit the potential to develop the next generation of experts and leaders.
2. 10,000 Baby Boomers become eligible for retirement each day: Gen Y and Gen X are the future workforce. Baby Boomers can be an important source of knowledge and expertise before they leave the workforce.
3. Cooperation can lead to a competitive advantage: When multiple generations work together, their different skills and mindsets can combine to produce unexpected and often superior results.
4. Prepare employees for greater responsibilities. By utilizing intergenerational relationships and partnerships in the workplace, you can essentially build a pipeline for transferring responsibility gradually to the younger or less experienced employees.
5. We are more alike than different. My research shows that Baby Boomers, Gen X, and Gen Y all value opportunities to learn new skills and achieve greater financial security.
By making a deliberate effort to bring together a diverse group of individuals to share experiences, mentor one another, and work collaboratively, you will greatly improve your organization’s prospects over the long term. Intergenerational interactions enhance the potential of the entire workforce and can lead to innovation that results in a competitive advantage.
Dr. Candace Steele Flippin is a multigenerational workplace scholar, author and public affairs expert.