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Tips to Avoid Generational Conflict in the Workplace

Ian Cameron Oct 9, 2014 7:30:00 AM

Workplace_ConflictToday's workforce diversity also includes a rich blend of generational expertise and the unique challenges that this diverse talent pool presents to government, SMB and Fortune 500 firms. Whether it's Gen X, Baby Boomers, or Millennials they all have their own perspectives, lifestyles, interests, and approaches to their work responsibilities.

According to a recent report by Deloitte, two-thirds of human resource managers report some generational conflict within their organizations. Although this is clearly an important issue, only one-third of these organizations have addressed ways in which to identify, mediate and manage this issue.

Here are some tips to avoid disaster in your workplace.

Utilize Two-Way Mentoring

We usually think of mentoring as an older, wiser employee helping a younger one develop their skills and realize their potential. Many companies have been able to flip this concept on its head in a way that helps older workers benefit from their younger colleagues and reduces the incidence of generational conflict.

An obvious opportunity here is technology. Leverage the innate understanding of emerging technology that Millennials possess and create opportunities for them to share this outlook with older workers. This is something GE did in the early part of the millennia when Jack Welch told senior executives to set up mentoring relationships with the firm’s youngest employees so that they could benefit from their understanding of the Internet.

Create Engagement

Whenever possible, it's important to engage workers in collaborative projects where they share common goals. This conveys unity and mutual goals with an opportunity to solve issues, create product and service growth. Generational differences don’t have to polarize workers.

Also, try bringing staff members of different generations together for team-building exercises that can help break down some of the barriers that can occur. This gives everyone an opportunity to relax and discuss things in a casual atmosphere.

Bridge Communication Gaps

When you’ve got multiple generations working side-by-side, communication problems are almost a given. This isn’t unique to the workforce. If you’re a parent of teenagers, you’re probably experiencing this same phenomenon at home. These gaps can occur because of channel (texting vs. email vs. face-to-face), tone (formal vs. informal) or a number of other reasons.

A lot of factors can influence how a person communicates: personality, culture, age. These communication gaps can harm relations, slow down projects and even contribute to turnover. It’s important to help employees recognize the differing expectations and preferences that may exist between generations. This knowledge can equip people to adapt their communication style when dealing with older or younger colleagues and put communication coming from those groups into perspective.

Avoid Bias

Every generation has a stereotype for the generation that came before and after it. These stereotypes can create biases that influence everything from first impressions to how they perceive information coming from an individual.

You can help these situations by actively looking for dysfunction in the workplace and intervening. Make sure older workers aren’t dismissing input from younger ones just because of their age. And don’t let the enthusiasm of younger workers steamroll the wisdom of older ones. Help them understand the value in listening to what the other has to say and considering it alongside their own viewpoint.

What tips do you have for managing a multi-generational workforce?

Image courtesy of stockimages at FreeDigitalPhotos.net


 

 

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Topics: Employee Engagement, Productivity

Ian Cameron

Written by Ian Cameron

Ian Cameron is the Managing Director of The McQuaig Institute®. He has more than 20 years of Human Resource and Organizational Development consulting experience. Throughout his career Ian’s focus has been on helping organizations realize their goals through their people and helping people live their passion through their work.