In early June, DirectEmployers had the opportunity to sponsor a trueU Leadership Summit focusing on the topic of generational differences at work and in life. Taking place at the Indianapolis Colts training facility, nine DE and Recruit Rooster team members had the chance to attend and learn from the knowledgeable speakers taking part in the half-day educational event. And the topic couldn’t be more relevant, with five generations currently working within the workforce simultaneously – a first in modern history1. While each presenter spoke to a different topic, there were four overarching (and in some cases, recurring) themes that were great takeaways to be applied in a diverse, multigenerational workplace.
#1: Ego is the Enemy
In this case, your ego is your perception of situations and encounters based on your personal experience and existing knowledge base. Taking only your values, beliefs, and experiences into account when navigating experiences with others of differing generations can lead to negative outcomes and can project false intentions on others. In other words, what you think or feel in a given situation isn’t automatically “right”. Consider what may have led someone else to arrive at their stance and opinion and you’ll likely find that it’s also valid, just different than yours.
#2: Be Aware of Bias
Bias, whether perceived or unconscious, has no place in or out of the office but unfortunately, it is something we will all experience. Differing from ego, bias refers to the assumptions and judgements we make about a person based on our limited and often uninformed experience with them or others like them. This is especially prevalent among differing generations when it comes to values, attitude, and work ethic.
#3: Conflict Can’t Be Avoided
When you combine ego and bias, it’s no surprise that conflict can result. Rather than trying to prevent conflict altogether, be prepared to handle it effectively when it does arise. This involves knowing the different tactics of response, including both conflict management and resolution. As you might expect, conflict resolution means that an issue is resolved and finalized. Unfortunately, not all conflict can be resolved and trying to force a solution where there is none can only cause further strife. That’s where conflict management comes in. This is when an issue is mediated and coped with. In this instance, there is an agreement to disagree, but the parties move forward on areas of common ground.
#4: Prevent the Brain Drain
A great point was made during the event, that Baby Boomers have paved the way and done all the heavy lifting to get us to the workforce experience we have today, but in doing so, they obtained valuable experience and knowledge along the way. Before they leave the workforce, it’s imperative to gather that intel so it is not lost. Today, older generations are seeking fulfillment in knowing that they made a difference. In this way, their professional legacy lives on through their experience, even after retirement.
When people are their authentic selves at work, everybody wins! They are more engaged, feel seen and heard, are more likely to share ideas, and as a result, the company benefits. With that said, having the awareness and knowledge to navigate a diverse workforce is vital, and generational differences play a large role in that beautiful diversity. For the first time in recent history, new grads may be working alongside great-grandparents1 and that is sure to create barriers, bias, and conflict. Your best bet is to remain open-minded and with an accepting attitude that helps to make everyone feel like they belong, regardless of their age.
Hastwell, Claire. “Engaging and Managing a Multigenerational Workforce.” Great Place to Work, 18 January 2023, https://www.greatplacetowork.com/resources/blog/engaging-and-managing-multigenerational-workforce.