The Short Answer is Yes
Today’s work environment is diverse, to say the least. The average office has at least two, if not three, generations working together. According to a CBS St. Louis article, the three main generations that make of the workforce today are:
- The Baby Boomers (1946-1964): most likely were raised by a stay-at-home Mom versed in the teachings of Dr. Spock; their formative years were marked by the advent of television, man landing on the moon, assassinations and the Vietnam War
- Generation X, or GenXers (1965-1980): often children of divorce who were latchkey kids since both parents were most likely working; they were heavily influenced by MTV, the personal computer and the Challenger disaster
- The Millennials (1981-2000): were raised in the era of “everyone gets a trophy”; have no knowledge of a world without the Iinternet and base their life in real-time via social media outlets and 24/7 news outlets (i.e. they witness school violence & global terror attacks as they were happening)
As expected, each of these generations interact with one another with pointedly different expectations and communication styles. However, there can be effective team building for offices of a multi-generational workforce. First you have to understand where communication breaks down among the generations.
For offices where there are people that have been in the workforce for 30-40 years and others who have just gotten out of college, collaboration can end up as a hot mess. Sometimes just planning group activities for your multi-generational workplace is a study of miscommunication.
According to the Business News Daily the best course of action is to encourage the leaders and employees to understand how their colleagues prefer to communicate: email, text, or face-to-face. To have the most effective communication with a co-worker, there must be a real willingness to go beyond what’s expected and step outside personal preference and habit. Making the effort to communicate in the way your colleague prefers is critical for all age-groups, not just one over the other (i.e boss over subordinate).
Get Over Stereotypes
A lot of the issues among different generations has to do with the always present stereotype. The American Psychological Association has broken down the commonly held views on the work ethics and values for each of the generations that make up the majority of the workforce today:
- Baby Boomers – optimistic, teamwork and communication, ambitious, workaholic
- Generation X – skeptical, self-reliant, risk-taking, balances work and personal life
- Millennials – hopeful, meaningful work, diversity & change valued, technology savvy
In it’s basest form, it’s commonly understood that Baby Boomers are “too traditional” and Millennials are lazy and controlled by technology. As a GenXer, I subscribed to some generational stereotypes in the workplace myself when I worked with Millennials after I re-entered the workforce in 2014 after being a stay-at-home Mom for 11 years.
My first impression of Millennial workers is that they shielded themselves with technology. For example, using Skype to speak to one another when you are just a couple of desks away, excuse me? However, in retrospect, it was more productive to ask a quick question via Skype and have an answer immediately rather then stopping my work, getting up, walking over, interrupting their work (and the workers around them with my physical presence), asking my question and then usually get distracted by someone else on the way back to my desk to implement what I wanted to ask my co-worker in the first place – whew.
What takes few moments of Millennial Skyping can turn into a 10-20 minute endeavor when applied the Gen-X way of face-to-face Q & A.See, we can learn from one another after all!
Bridging the Generational Gap
In order to bridge the generational gap, it is essential that you engage in team building activities. Here are a few ways to accomplish a unified office environment:
- Assign teams with multi-generational members in order to expose one another to different outlooks and communication styles.
- Promote the use of all forms of technology in the workplace; it’s not going away anytime soon, so all offices should be leveraging it as much as possible to stay competitive.
- Encourage mentoring between younger and older generations for viable knowledge transfer opportunities.
- Hold monthly meetings where all employees are encouraged to voice their input/concerns in order to learn from one another.
- Focus on the work done and not the age of the worker; everyone has something to contribute, and who knows you may just learn something new!
Build a Bridge Between Generations with Larry Lipman
Larry Lipman of Fun Team Building can facilitate your bridge between generations. Larry will travel to you to help meet your team’s needs. Give Larry a call at 770-333-3303 to schedule your team building event today.