Generational judgements – the rewards and pitfalls of working with different generations
We tend to have innate optimism to think that others will agree with us about what good looks like and what constitutes a sound logical decision. On reflection, we do not really need research to tell us that individuals experiencing their formative years in a different era to us will have a different sense of what is best and important. This goes far deeper than their preferences in music or preferred television viewing and at work can have a profound effect on how different generations judge each other’s contributions.
Multi-Generational Workforce: Who is Right?
On many occasions, working a multi-generational workforce can be immensely effective as each group will bring something unique to the task. Avoiding the risk of stereotyping and acknowledging that each person is unique and may not necessarily demonstrate all the supposed attributes of their generation, we still need to reflect on what our colleagues of different ages believe is ‘best’ or ‘right’.
The observation that different generations each think a particular means of communication is best can certainly lead to frustration. Consider who of your colleagues’ comments ‘Why don’t they just pick up the phone?’ Would you consider one generation is typically more direct and says it as it whereas colleagues of a different age tend to be more diplomatic and appear to show more respect? These supposed generational differences are clearly superimposed on a whole plethora of other behavioural traits.
There are numerous potential differences and either operating as if your colleagues share your sense of what best is or that they confirm to their generational stereotype can both lead to potential issues. So, what is a solution?
Communication as always is key
One way to avoid potential inefficiencies or tensions caused by these differences is to start a dialogue about such issues as to what factors should be taken into account when promotions are considered. Is entitlement based on experience, merit or the level of individual’s contribution. Your formative years may well influence what you think the best solution is.
Similarly, different generations have a different response to how much time they should spend at work; is visibility the key? Am I not paid to get the job done? Am I not right to work hard for the hours I am paid and then leave? Also, the impact of when people grew up can influence what they typically look for in a job, be it the ability to contribute, flexibility and forward thinking or challenge and variety.
The one thing you can assume is that people are different to you and for everyone to be more effective we need to value time spent finding out that others consider as best or right to a whole range of work and people related issues. This investment in understanding and appreciating differences across the generations can make the workplace both a more contented place in which to work but also far more productive.
Enjoy those meaningful conversations and avoid making generational judgements.