Bridging the generation gap

Bridging the generation gap

Ever feel like you're talking to a wall? Can't understand your boss's way of thinking? What is it with kids these days? Before you get frustrated, check out how the generations in today's workforce are different.
Aug 01, 2008
By staff

Illustration by Marci Roth
A conversation with your boss usually leaves you scratching your head. Huh? Your associate wants you to implement flexible scheduling. What? Remember to breathe. A little understanding and patience go a long way when you're communicating across the generation gap. Recognizing the general differences in age groups and life stages can help you get along better with your coworkers. While these broad brush strokes don't always hold true, at right you'll find a description of the typical generational traits and values you'll encounter—which could give you new insight into the behavior of your boss or your employees.

Old guard

Born between 1920 and 1964

> Disciplined

> Respect authority

> May manipulate rules to meet goals

> Tend to be service- oriented people pleasers

> Live to work; little work-life balance

> Sensitive to feedback

> Optimistic

> Driven

> Like to have time to discuss ideas

> Want others to follow the rules

> Care what others think

> Motivated by financial rewards, peer recognition, and prestige

> Want their job to enhance their egos

> Work comes first

New guard

Born between 1965 and present

> Can work well with others or work alone

> Figure out what needs to be done—and do it

> Self-reliant and adaptable

> Strive for work-life balance; lifestyle comes first

> Skeptical

> Not intimidated by authority figures

> Independent, informal

> Diverse, yet staunch in their opinions

> Interested and comfortable with new technology

> Inexperienced at handling difficult people

> Motivated by time off, mentoring, training, bonuses, and recognition

> Want to build skills for the next job

Talk the talk

Trying to cross an expansive gap in generational communication? Here are some tips to help you build bridges from Firstline magazine and Benchmarks 2008: A Study of Well- Managed Practices.

> Exercise patience with your coworkers and try not to judge— different is different, not necessarily bad.

> Take a deep breath and remember that everyone on your team is working toward the same goal.

> Strive to understand other people's perspectives.

> Persevere. Don't expect to immediately bridge the gap. Continually reach out to associates and team members, and help them communicate with other—even when it feels like you need a translator.

The bottom line: When you reach out to members of other generations and create a team that takes advantage of the skills each group brings to a practice, you create new leaders—and leverage a group of creative problem solvers with fresh perspectives.