I’m sure you’ve heard it before or something like it, “Ugh, you millennials!” In a job market where four generations are working together, it’s probably more common than you think. Every day you may be faced with a task that will test the skillset or knowledge of employees and sometimes it can be more recognizable within the differences in age groups. Especially when it comes to technology. Technology is constantly evolving, and it hasn’t seemed to slow down yet. I’m pretty sure we can all say that we’ve had to adjust to some new form of technology, and it isn’t always easy. What makes it even harder is when someone is chastising you for your lack of knowledge on topic and then point out your generational differences which only makes it worse or more uncomfortable. It is important that when working with multiple generations that you don’t dwell on the differences.
You should stay away from phrases that begin with, “My generation is…” or “All (insert generations) are…” (by the way this is a micro aggression. Keep your eyes open for an article on that coming soon!) Most organizations strive to have a collaborative atmosphere. Yet, if employees are consistently pointing out the differences amongst generations while working on a project, they’ll never complete the task to the best of your ability. Instead, everyone should be more focused on what each person can bring to the table. This goes beyond what decade they were born in. This is about their skills, experience, and abundance of knowledge. Study your employees. Understand the demographics of your workplace as well as employee communication preferences.
If you would like to take it a step further and really do your research. Below is an excerpt from a MindTools article that shows the different age groups that are in the labor force today, it describes traits and characteristics between five different generations, and how they are frequently stereotyped. It gives you some insight on how some generations interact within the workplace. While at work keep these characteristics in consideration when interacting with your multi-generation team. Keep a mental note of the responses you receive so that you can then adjust any areas of behavior within yourself that could make for a better interaction.
I can vividly remember starting a role at a new company and immediately noticing that I was one of the youngest people within the department. This didn’t bother me; however, it was definitely noticeable and not only on my end. First, there were lingering stares as I walked through cubicles. Then, there was the awkward conversation where someone welcomed me to the organization and then proceeded to tell me how young I looked and then asked my age. I followed their question with a nervous statement where I revealed my age and mentioned that I had noticed that I could be one of the youngest within a department. The person then tried to tell me that it was OK and not to worry about it but made sure to confirm that I was indeed the youngest within that sector. Looking back on it now, it wasn’t necessary for me to confirm their suspicions about my age. It also wasn’t necessary for them to ask that question. I walked away feeling as though my age was of more importance than what actually brought me to the organization. Rather than asking me what my position was and if I was excited to be a part of the team, I felt judged for my youth. These may not have been the intentions of this person, however, it’s how it made me feel. These are the kind interactions we want to avoid in the workplace.
Here are five tips to remember when working with a multi generational team:
1. Assume nothing
2. Stop using labels
3. Regularly check your own bias
4. Pay attention to people, not trends
5. Embrace diversity within each generation
With 2020 being the start of a new decade, it is officially time to welcome Generation Z into the workforce. Once again, it’s always easy to point out the differences. Yet, instead of dwelling on the traits that make us different, and the preconceived assumptions of each generation, we should focus more on individuality. If you keep those tips in mind, I’m sure you will see the benefit and great team efforts that can result from a cross-generational team.