I have been hearing a lot of complaining lately about ‘the younger generation’ and the ‘older generation’ in the workplace. It’s time to stop the complaining and begin to understand.
Think about it: We spend a lot of time asking our customers questions in order to determine their needs and we spend time actively listening so that we can best meet those needs. However, why is it that when it comes to our front line staff, we spend more time pushing information and even less time listening?
Shouldn’t we understand our staff as well as we understand our customers if we want to engage them?
Shouldn’t we spend more time asking THEM questions?
Now more than ever, with three generations working together, we need to better understand our people if we are going to create synergy and a highly productive workplace.
First, if you want to understand the differences between your staff (or the differences between you and your staff), you need to understand that every generation comes from a different political, social, economic and cultural background. Each generation brings different values to the workplace.
The Boomers were raised in a very robust post economic time. This was a very work-centric generation. Workaholics, competitive and hardworking trying to race to the top of the corporate ladder. Their self-worth came from professional achievements. This generation brings a lot of knowledge and experience to the workplace.
Generation X were typically raised as latchkey kids as both their parents often worked. These were the kids of workaholic Boomer parents. This generation was afflicted with a high divorce rate among their parents. This generation works independently, therefore, likes autonomy. They are very adaptable and always land on their feet.
Generation Y (the one everyone seems to unjustly complain about) was the first generation to be raised on the internet, with everything at the push of a button. This was the generation where everyone gets a medal, no one ever failed, helicopter parents making certain they were in a highly structured environment where a path setting them up for success was paved for them since day one. This generation participated in multiple activities growing up giving them every possible opportunity to learn and excel. This is a talented workforce, who works well in a highly structured environment and works well independently but with supervision.
This is really just a brief description of each generation; however, I am sure you are starting to see and understand why these generations may behave the way they do in the workplace based on their background. It is our job as leaders to understand the differences between our staff, why they are the way they are and respect these differences. Rather than create division between our staff and ourselves because they are not like us, it is our responsibility as leaders to focus on getting to know all our talent, focus on the positive attributes of our people and ensure everyone is focused on common goals and priorities.
Stop complaining. Start understanding.