How to Bridge the Age Gap in Workplace? (Guest blog)by
Your office, like most other offices must have baby-boomers or old-timers, having more than two to three decades of work experience along with young millennials, who have just joined the corporate army of professionals. If you are stuck in between this phenomenal generation gap, stranded on either side, looking for a bridge to connect with the other side, this post will help you in the same.
If you are in your mid 20’s or early 30’s, chances are that you might not have started appreciating the presence of baby boomers amongst you, their experience notwithstanding. The young workforce has historically considered older workers amongst the slower ones, stuck in their own ways of doing things and this might be partially true as well. This discord is mostly mutual where even the old timers do not view the younger generation too favorably.
As a person who is backed by more than two to three decades of experience, you can be forgiven for viewing the younger workers as interlopers looking for shortcuts to the top. However, the truth is that both the sides are faulty in their judgment and that’s how many organizations suffer from a lack of proper camaraderie amongst its employees. If you are a business owner, your biggest challenge would be to get these two generations look beyond their personal biases and work for the common good of the organization. The differences are many and varied, right from dress to work habits, and communication style.
For business owners, HR managers
Here are some of the ways by which harmony can be increased in the company:
Initiating mentorship programs
Both, the older generation and the younger generation of workforce have a number of things to learn from each other. Through the extensive experience of the baby boomers, millennials can gain a valuable insight in that particular field, while tech-savvy and energetic youth can help their older colleagues with innovative and quick solutions or new ways of thinking through any pertinent issue. A cross-generational mentorship program would help different generations learn new skills from each other. This session would result in an improved understanding of one another and a more comprehensive approach towards work.
Every generation employee wants to add value to business through their work. As a business owner you have to make sure that each employee has a proper understanding of their roles in any particular project. Whether a millennial leaves early at 4 or their more experienced counterpart uses his own tried and tested approach towards work, it’s important that business instills a sense of mutual respect for each other’s working style in the office. This will improve the bottom line and also profit them on personal levels. There are strains in culture between generations owing to mismanaged expectations. For the same, early communication is one necessary step.
Dealing with conflicts
When members of different generations interact with each other on a regular basis, some friction is bound to get created; however, efficient management can direct this friction towards innovative work practices and greater collaboration. A good business leader or HR manager would help the team and its member work through the conflicts and make them understand the importance of one another’s contribution. There should be a streamlined process to give employees a fair chance of being heard out and resolve the tensions amicably.
If you happen in a workplace where regular interaction across age difference is unavoidable, it’s helpful to know some of the generalizations about different age groups. However, the bridging would come only when you stop being judgmental and engage in a dialogue across the generations. It effectively means that you have to stop assuming that age gap has anything to do with the way people would behave. Instead, judge every person on individual basis. You might have read about certain generational similarities but there are a number of examples who do not fit this generalization. There might be a septuagenarian worker who is a computer geek and creates code for websites and apps. Similarly, not every 25 year old is tech savvy or a computer whiz.
There is saying, “Treat others like you want to be treated”, however, here try doing something different. Make efforts to find out how your peers, especially those on the other side of the generation would like to be treated and accord them the same treatment. That means, when you address someone two decades older than you, instead of calling him or her by his first name, as you would like to be called, you should ask whether they wish to be called by their first name or last.
You should regularly have brain storming session with your seniors/juniors. These discussions will end up enriching everyone with new knowledge and experience. Such a session would be an eye opener where you would find a lot of things in common with other generation workers. Going out on team trips and outings is another way to break through generational stereotype. These are just few work habits, that if developed will help weed out generational differences, if any and bridge the gap.
Hasib is a professional writer working with one of the most popular job sites in India. He often writes articles which are based on career and advices related to workplace. He is an avid reader and is crazy about two things – football and good food. Follow him @ twitter, Google+, LinkedIn.