The Generation Gap

Image courtesy of Matthew G's photostream

Image courtesy of Matthew G’s photostream

“When I was your age…I had to walk uphill, barefoot, in the snow, with my baby sister on my back, shoeless!”

I’m sure everyone has heard their elders recite this sentence in one form or another. That statement is a perfect example of the generation gap that the world is facing.  There are five generations in the workplace, five! They are the *Veterans (born 1930–1945), Baby Boomers (1946–1964), Generation Xers (1965–1976), Generation Yers (1977-1990) and Millennials (born since 1991). From communications preferences to how one receives praise or criticism, each generation has a different approach to the workplace. Understanding how each of your employees faces the workday will undoubtedly create a more cohesive team and environment for your business to succeed and grow. Here is what I, as a Generation Y-er, have observed:

•    Communication: While some of us prefer email, others are partial to face-to-face interaction. I have learned to be flexible, as I think many people in the X and Y generations have, as long as the information is passed along. We grew up right smack in the middle of technology transitioning from typewriters to laptops. We X and Y’s are comfortable with one-on-one conferences or webinars; just as long as the communication line is open.

•    Technology: As I just mentioned, the workforce born into the rise of technology is malleable and will comfortably grow with the tech world. I believe this gives us an advantage in the workplace. Veterans and Baby Boomers are less receptive to ideas that they don’t understand or can’t get a firm grip on. Can’t get the hang of how an iPad works? Don’t use one! Unfortunately, this concept isn’t becoming at the office. The ability to admit that technology is growing much faster than most of us can comprehend is not a weakness. A stubborn and unbending attitude will only set you and your business back.

•    Family: One thing we all have in common, whether you are 25 or 55, is the importance of family. This seems to be the strongest bond formed in any organization. Showing off your grandkids or celebrating an engagement are recognized as important milestones and strengthen relationships with all co-workers, young and old. At the end of the day, family should be what motivates us to be better and work harder. Having that as a common goal can be the string that holds your team together.

So the next time your Great-Uncle Harry decides to share how he helped build the St. Louis Bridge with just a hammer, just listen and smile. The battle to finish a project with the new version of Excel may very well feel like walking uphill, 20 miles, barefoot.


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