Today’s workplace is like no other. For the first time in history, five generations work together in the same office; this means you could find yourself working side-by-side with co-workers who are older or younger than you by 40 or 50 years. According to the Bureau of Labor Statistics, by 2024 it’s estimated that 25 percent of the workforce is projected to be over 55 years old. People in their 60s, 70s, and even 80s also are choosing to work either full or part time (because they must or want to). This growing trend has resulted in a blend of generations in the workplace.
With this span of age diversity comes a variety of individual work styles and characteristics such as values, work ethics, expectations, motivations, levels of commitment and more. Working among generational differences can make it challenging to get things done – but it doesn’t have to be. Focusing on the talents and expertise each generation brings to the worktable can make for a harmonious, productive work environment.
“Managing multigenerational workforces is an art.
Young workers want to make a quick impact,
the middle generation needs to believe in the mission,
and the older employees don’t like ambivalence.”
~ Harvard Business School
It begins with you. Understanding and supporting each generation and recognizing how your generation may be perceived by co-workers in other age groups can help your communication, interaction and job effectiveness. This is an exciting time to be in the workplace. Considering the blend of intergenerational work styles is an ideal way to leverage different perspectives and accomplish business goals and objectives.
Here are five strategies for thriving within a multigenerational work environment:
Respect Each Other
No matter your age or rank, respecting each other’s differences is the foundation of productive and happy work relationships. Everyone wants to feel respected. Invite a co-worker from a different generation to lunch to learn more about each other’s interests, career goals and experiences. After all, we can learn from each other, and it’s bound to be an enjoyable lunch!
Understand Communication Styles
Not everyone may share your generational communication style. Being adept at adjusting the way you communicate is an important skill to master to ensure your messages are understood. Communicating in acronyms and jargon, for example, may be easily grasped by younger generations but may not be the best way to convey your message to older groups. Being mindful and thoughtful in your communications is often the first step to career growth.
We all can fall short from time to time with respect to stereotyping. For example, baby boomers may think millennials lack people skills, because they’re so focused on technology. On the other hand, millennials may feel baby boomers are too rigid, old-fashioned and have a difficult time adapting to change. The ideal approach is to pay attention to the generational attributes and differences everyone has to offer.
Invest in Yourself
Every generation can benefit from professional development. Engage in trainings that will not only add value to your career but are applicable to all generations. Developing cross-generational skills and collaboration set the stage for success.
Research suggests that flexibility makes you more responsive to change and is a key leadership skill. Being flexible also allows you to build your mindfulness “muscle” with a better level of understanding of multigenerational differences and work styles. Understand the importance of flexibility by practicing this skill at work and home. You’ll realize it’s an essential lifelong skill and leads to a healthier you.
Today, many workplaces are comprised of five generations.