Three Common Multi-Generational Workplace Problems (And How to Solve Them)
The first Gen Z workers are now entering the workforce, and a large percentage of Baby Boomers are continuing to work well past retirement age. As a result, many companies now employ workers from four generations. And while this variety of skills, knowledge, and experience forms valuable human capital, managing a multi-generational workplace can be challenging. Here are three common multi-generational workplace problems and what you can do to overcome them.
1. Negative stereotypes about other generations: Baby Boomers don’t know how to use modern technology. Gen X workers just want to get ahead. Millennials are lazy, and Gen Z workers don’t have any interpersonal skills. Unfortunately, stereotypes like these abound—and they’re not conducive to a pleasant, productive work environment. They’re caused by a lack of understanding of other generations and frequently lead to a lack of respect. You can help your employees overcome generational stereotyping by encouraging collaboration between team members of different generations on projects. This gives them the opportunity to get to know each other as individuals so they can learn to appreciate each other’s knowledge and skills.
2. Different work styles: There can be a significant divide between how the various generations prefer to work. Baby Boomers are used to putting in long workdays at the office, while Gen Y and Gen Z workers usually prefer flexible hours and telecommuting options. At the same time, mature workers are often happy to take an assignment or project and run with, while younger workers prefer group-based work and daily feedback. As Shannon Gausepohl points out in her Business News Daily article titled “Tackling 4 Key Challenges of the Multigenerational Workforce,” it’s best to allow employees to work according to their own preferences. This is especially important because individuals are more likely to be motivated to perform well when they have a certain degree of autonomy about how they work. When team members with different work styles need to collaborate on a project, facilitate a meeting to establish a work style that’s acceptable for all involved, whether that’s by meeting in the office at certain times, using collaboration software, or some other arrangement.
3. Communication problems: Many companies are adopting enterprise software with messaging systems for managers and their team members. Yet while messaging is a normal method of communication for younger employees, some older workers prefer email or phone calls. As a manager, it’s best to communicate with employees using the medium they prefer. When it comes to communications between team members, unless there’s a corporate policy that requires employees to use email or a company messaging system, encourage them to ask each other what their preferred communication method is.
If you keep these pointers in mind, you can help your employees learn to appreciate each other’s strengths and contributions to the team and, by extension, the company. And that goes a long way to creating a workplace where individuals are valued based on professional merit, regardless of what generation they belong to.
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