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Multi-Generations in the Workplace: Diversity Leads to Stronger Outcomes

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Mon Feb 23 2015

Multi-Generations in the Workplace: Diversity Leads to Stronger Outcomes
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Generation is “a group of individuals born and living contemporaneously who have common knowledge and experiences that affect their thoughts, attitudes, values, beliefs, and behaviors.”**

—**Meagan and Larry Johnson of Generations, Inc. 

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Much has been written about the differences and disharmony among the five generations that currently exist in the workplace. However, this situation is changing and diversity is being viewed as an asset—resulting in organizations meeting goals more effectively and efficiently. 

Recognizing Differences 

There is an increasing awareness of the importance for a multi-generational workforce to learn and work together. In addition, there is more appreciation for—and recognition of—differences in generational work ethics and mindsets. 

Acknowledging that generational values, mindsets, priorities, and behaviors are different (but not wrong) is the first step toward a truly integrated workforce. Examples of different work mindsets include: 

  • Traditionalists: I am at my workplace for eight hours. If necessary, I stay late to complete an assignment.

  • Boomers: I am at my workplace for eight to 10 hours. If necessary, I will take work home.

  • Gen Xers: I try to complete my work at the office. If necessary, I will take it home.

  • Millennials: This is a 24/7 world, I work until 5:00 and will log on tonight at home.

  • Z Generation: I think being physically in the workplace full-time is not necessary, and I can work remotely with a flexible schedule. 

Improving Performance 

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Surprisingly for some, these differences can not only be compatible, but also enrich a team or project work experience. Instead of a widening gap, employees are working together to achieve common goals. More importantly, having a positive attitude about generational diversity in the workplace can result in such benefits as: 

  • more in-depth dialogue—with feedback offered voluntarily

  • fewer incidents of conflict, debate, and clashes

  • wider range of motivational tools and methods

  • realistic expectations that are appropriate to the situation

  • more creative solutions—proposed via group brainstorming

  • increased productivity by teams and project groups

  • larger pool of candidates for succession planning.

Moving Forward

I would like to pose some questions for you to consider that will help you examine how you view other generations with whom you have working and networking relationships:

  • Describe your co-workers, team members, and networking contacts in terms of their generation qualities, values, and preferences. How do these characteristics differ from yours and affect your relationships with them?

  • How would your rate your communication challenges with other generations?

      Don’t have challenges \_\_\_         

      Have minor challenges \_\_\_  

      Have major challenges \_\_\_

  • What is one quality that a colleague of another generation has that you admire and wish you possessed?

  • Have you experienced any friction with members from other generations? If yes, identify the generation, describe the situation, and explain how you handled it.

  • Are you comfortable working with a client or customer that is at least two generations separated from yours? Why and what can be done to ease the situation?

  • In the future, which generations should your organization target for new hires, new clients or customers, or include in succession planning candidates? Why?

 In Summary 

Understanding the reasons behind generational differences enables you to be less judgmental and less likely to misjudge a comment or suggestion. For your own career success, learn how to accommodate another person’s generational preferences and, at the same time, share your preferences. In the end, not only will your organization or clients profit and prosper, but you will as well.  

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Editor’s note: This is the last post of the Generations in the Workplace series. To learn more, post 1 examines impact of perceptions and post 2 discusses diversity of communication styles.

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