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Millennials vs. Boomers (and some Gen Xers): Bridge the Generation Gap for a Productive, Harmonious Workplace (Part 2 of 2)

Categories: Bridging the Generation Gap

If you have new hires that come from the generation called the Millennials (otherwise known as Generation Y), you might be shaking your head, wondering why they do the things they do and don’t do the things that you wish they’d do.

Well guess what?

There are always two sides to any gap, including the generation gap. The tenents of accountability demand that you -- yes you, Baby Boomer (or Generation Xer) -- take responsibility for bridging it!

Last week I wrote a blog about the Generation Gap and promised a Part 2.

Here are 5 more tips for Bridging the Generation Gap in the Office (At home, you’re on your own.)

1. Learn new technologies. Hey Boomers, didn’t you know that learning keeps you young? The attitude of, “I’m not going to answer this text. If they need me, they should pick up the phone or come and find me in person” will get you nowhere. And by the way, these days texting is picking up the phone. As the old saying goes, “Try it, you’ll like it.”

2. Let go of preconceived ideas and labels. Did you like being pigeonholed as a Boomer, or whatever your generation is called? Well, forget that your new reps are called Millennials, and focus on their individual strengths, potentials, and training needs.

3. Take a look at your own judgments. Do you believe in the generation gap? Do you think your age or title should automatically win you respect? Do you believe that “kids today are ... (fill in the blank)?"

4. Learn to communicate more neutrally and clearly. Younger generation texting in meetings? Well, did anyone ever actually mention it was against company policy? Because to many of them, it’s perfectly appropriate. All companies have a particular culture and different rules as to what is or isn’t appropriate. Don’t assume anyone else knows them. Clearly lay them out for new hires. Be prepared to give good reasons for your rules. If you can’t, perhaps it’s time to take a look at your own prejudices.

5. Try to understand where the current generation is coming from -- their perspective (and what's influenced them). We used to call that “walking a mile in the other guy’s shoes,” remember?

Attitudes and perceptions are forged by the era we grew up in, and you’ll have to admit that 20-somethings grew up in a substantially different environment than we did, with terrorist attacks, global warming fears, reality TV, and technological advances happening at the speed of lightning.

It only makes sense that those who grew up in the depression, those who grew up or served in World War II, those who grew up in the swinging '60s and those who grew up in the shadow of 9/11 will see the world differently.

Again, learning keeps you young, so why not try to learn where this generation is coming from, what makes them tick, why they act the way they do? It’s a whole different approach than just trying to fit them into an existing mold, or muttering about “kids these days.”

If there’s one thing that never changes regardless of generation or technological advances, it’s that a successful business must have successful relationships as its foundation -- with staff, management and clients.

The foundation of good relationships has never changed. They are -- and always will be -- based on mutual respect and open communication. If you don’t feel like you’re getting it ... you may well need to ask yourself whether you are giving it.

What would happen if we adjusted our attitudes to really see diversity in the workplace as a good thing, and looked for ways to take advantage of it?

What would happen if we really looked for the opportunities to grow, learn, be more open, connect, and build a stronger and more vital business within the gap?

I'd love to hear your thoughts.

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