Topic of the Week Talking About My Generation: Managing Different Ages at Work
• DO appreciate differences.
• DO accept there is no truth.
• DO look for common ground.
• DON'T expect problems.
From old timers to twenty-somethings, managing today's multigenerational workplace can be a huge challenge. But if you put thought and planning into your efforts, you can actually create a workforce where people actually draw the most out of each other rather than the worst. Which reminds me of something that happens every December 24th at 3 pm in Sweden. Almost half of all Swedes sit down to watch the same traditional TV program that has marked Christmas for over 50 years. Donald Duck cartoons. According to Slate.com the show is locked into the national psyche because it was the first big TV program when television first hit Sweden. Entire families often watch together, repeating their favorite lines.
Generations may come together in Sweden for Donald Duck, but it's often tougher to bring together different ages in today's workplace. Much tougher. That's why I've included three Do's and one Don't for surviving working along side your parents, your kids and everyone in between at work. For more, check out, Meaghan & Larry Johnson's book, "Generations, Inc." (Amacom, 2010).
DO appreciate differences. It's easy to get annoyed at the young kids who don't really understand how the workplace operates or the older people who you think are past their sell-by-date. Adopting either attitude will limit your effectiveness at work. You'll get more done if you learn how to appreciate, and leverage, the differences that each generation brings to work. Viva la difference.
DO accept there is no truth. If you read the literature on generations at work you'll learn all sorts of generalities about Millenials, Gen-Xers, boomers and the greatest generation. Millenials like challenges, Gen-Xers have trust issues with Boomers, many Boomers have control issues, etc. But you need to be careful, as much as there are common patterns and attitudes among members of each generation, there are also many differences. So you've got to be careful to not jump to conclusions to quickly, just like I did earlier in this paragraph. Take the time to get to know your people and what they value.
DO look for common ground. Whenever I think of finding common ground at work among generations, I always think of Tony Bennett. Popular among the oldsters in today's workplace, he's also created an entire generation of younger fans too. And many of the situation comedies that older folks watched as kids have become popular again among a much younger generation because they watched the same programs on cable as they were growing up too. You can mine this shared experience to create metaphors that will work for people who are 25 or 52.
DON'T expect problems. If you approach multigenerational workforces as an opportunity rather than a headache you just might be surprised. Create situations where they can come together to get the most out of their different experiences and insights.
Follow these tips and you won't have to duck when different generations come to work, you'll discover that people can actually learn from each other.
About the Author: Bob Rosner is a best-selling author and award-winning journalist. For free job and work advice, check out the award-winning workplace911.com. Check the revised edition of his Wall Street Journal best seller, "The Boss's Survival Guide." If you have a question for Bob, contact him via firstname.lastname@example.org.
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"We accumulate our opinions at an age when our understanding is at its weakest."
–Georg C. Lichtenberg
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