It seems that there is no organization or team untouched by the challenges of the different generations working along side one another. Much has been written about how frustrated leaders are trying to address the diverse views and attitudes of each. Inevitably, the topic of work ethic continuously surfaces as a sticky and unresolvable discussion during many of my programs. I say to myself when this happens: “Here we go again. Why can’t we all just get along?” So much time is wasted in judging and being angry that it appears we have lost sight of finding common ground and collaborating.
When we look at the unique strengths that each generation brings to a team, we begin to understand why harmonizing them just makes sense. Without stereotyping, each generation has experienced different cultural events that have impacted their childhood and adolescence. We became adults during different historical and political periods. Those events can actually create certain attitudes. For example: living through a depression may impact how a person thinks about work and money. The key is to pull together and create some new harmonies and tunes that can be embraced together. Here are some ways that may just work for you:
LISTEN TO EACH OTHER: In the HBO series, The Newsroom, a team of dedicated journalists from Traditionalists, Baby Boomers, GenX and Millennials, collaborate magnificently to produce a fictional news broadcast. Although there are many strong personalities on the show, they spend a great deal of time listening to what each person brings to the newscast. The team members are challenged to be open-minded and listen carefully to the information and sources being shared. If they don’t get the facts right because they interrupt or make assumptions, they will not be able to broadcast accurate and timely news.
How many times have we jumped to conclusions because we were unable to stay silent and just listen? Questions can be posed later, but getting the complete download initially is essential. It gives value to the words and ideas being presented and a belief that what someone has to say has merit.
RESPECT EACH OTHER’S STRENGTHS: When collaborating on a team project, the most successful way to achieve a great end result is to leverage each person’s special capabilities. If a Baby Boomer has the institutional wisdom about a client, learn from them. If a Millennial makes a suggestion about redoing the technology, try it. Be open to having each person contribute in the way that showcases his or her talent and interest.
SHARE THE LEADERSHIP ROLES: Every team member, regardless of their generation, should be encouraged to step up and lead. When people are empowered to lead, they get the chance to see the issues up close and an opportunity to present their strategies and action plans. Sometimes a different viewpoint can spark innovative steps to take that no one had considered. By volleying that leadership ball around, each team member gets to participate in sending the ball over the net.
How have you and your team worked in harmony with the generations in the workplace? Have you learned from a person from a different generation? Would love to hear your generational stories!