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Cross-Generational Workplace

In: Business and Management

Submitted By solson1313
Words 1893
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Abstract
There is no question that diversity plays a huge role in the workplace. There are issues with different races and gender, but one that does not seem as talked about is the difference in age. What many do not realize is that assuming all ages work the same way can be detrimental for not only the manager but the worker and company as well. When different age groups are combined to work, without proper accommodation, intergenerational conflict will occur. This is why understanding the different generations, including their values, attitudes and beliefs is important so that this conflict can be avoided. Once the different generations are understood, there are a few things a manager can do to ensure that their team will be able to work effectively.

A Diverse Workplace; Creating Effective Cross-Generational Work Teams
Generation gaps within the workplace are common and can create serious problems. According to Gregg Hammill, “This is the first time in American history that we have had four different generations working side-by-side in the workplace”. To create an effective cross generational work team, one must first understand the conflict that occurs and why when they are all put together without accommodation. After that, it is important to separately analyze each generation and their values, beliefs, and how they work. It is at that point, that a manager can effectively put together a cross generational team together by understanding and accommodating for each generation.

Differences in Generations
As with any situation, when there are misunderstandings, conflict often arises. When talking about different generations working together in the workplace, conflict can very easily occur. This is known as intergenerational conflict and it occurs because of the differences in cultural, social, or economic beliefs and values. According to Wayne Cascio (2015), “Intergenerational conflict is based on 3 things; work ethic, organizational hierarchy, and managing change”(p.131). All three of these things make a lot of sense because all generations do not believe in the same kinds of work ethic or hierarchy of authority. This is why it is important to individually analyze each generation that is currently in the workplace.

The Silent Generation The Silent Generation is currently the oldest group of workers in the workplace. They were born between 1925 and 1945. This group of workers is very loyal and they are definitive believes in the structure of hierarchy (Carr-Ruffino, 2015, p.583). They are the workers who show up on time and care strongly about their jobs. Their work ethic is simple; they are there to work. According to Hammill (n.d.), they are hardworking, respect their authority, and have a “duty before fun” type of attitude. Due to their respect and high opinion of their job, a good way to help this generation independently is to “assign them work that they consider meaningful and that reflects their skills and expertise”( Carr-Ruffino, 2015, p.583). Since their skills are so valuable, making them mentors is also a great idea to help the younger generations. Baby-Boomers The next generation of workers are considered the Baby Boomers and they were born between 1946 and 1964. Unlike the Silent generation, the Baby Boomers question the status quo, are very competitive and follow a change of command (Carr-Ruffino, 2015, p.583). They take “going to work” to a whole new level because according to Hammill, they are workaholics. Baby Boomers also hold a lot of value to the younger generations. Wayne Cascio (2015) says that they, “bring years of management and leadership expertise that cannot easily be replaced (p.130). Due to the fact that this generation likes to have a bit more control, a manager can give them the ability to come up with new ideas as well as praise them when they are doing a good job (Carr-Ruffino, 2015, p.584). Generation X Generation X, born between 1965-1981, want to avoid the stress and burnout that comes with working. Unlike the Silent Generation, this generation believes in independence and self-command (Carr-Ruffino, 2015, p 583). For X’ers, “An effective mentoring relationship with them must be as hands-off as possible” (Thielfoldt, D., & Scheef, D. 2004). It is not a good idea to hover over someone in the X generation, whereas someone in the Silent or Baby Boom generation would be okay with it. Although they like independence, they want structure and direction and believe in eliminating the task (Hammill). To them, it might be more about getting the task done quickly, rather than overworking themselves.
The Millennials
According to Carr-Ruffino (2015, p.586), Generation Y is the largest generation to date. People in this generation were born between 1982 and 2002. They are also said to be one of the most diverse generations, which means even more differences in values, beliefs, and work attitudes. Carr-Ruffino also explains how this group of workers are very confident and realistic and are not against working with other people to get things done (p.587). A major part of this generation is their multitasking ability and the fact that they are very goal oriented (Hammill). There are some issues that come about with this generation though due to the environment they have been brought up in. “They have short attention spans, have a constant need for stimulation and have a blurring of lines between work and leisure time while on the job”, according to Wayne Cascio (2013, p.131). That is why giving them goals and keeping them busy is important to keep them successful. A good tip to help the millennials is to “let them know when they have done a good job and provide constructive feedback when they haven’t” (Carr-Ruffino, 2015, p.588).
Recommendations to Bring Them Together
One of the first recommendations to help create an effective cross-generational work team is to adjust communication methods. A Baby Boomer would prefer a face-to face meeting because they were not brought up in times of such advanced technology. A Generation X or Y an employee would be okay with communicating via email or telephone because they have grown up surrounded by such technological advances. A manager cannot assume that a Baby Boomer will even look at an email about a work memo because they may not even have an email. A manager must consider the differences in communication and make sure that each generation receives the kind of communication that works best for them.
A second recommendation is to analyze different incentives and how the different generations react to them. Generation Y believes in flexibility, so it might be a good idea to give them incentives that allows them to receive extra time off or work. Whereas, for a Silent Generation employee, they may be more responsive to incentives that are formal or publicly presented. A great incentive for an employee from this generation would be to take their photo and frame it where all the other employees can see it.
Another recommendation has to do with mentoring. Due to all the differences that generations can bring to the table, a great way to put them together would be to have the older generations mentor the younger ones, and vice versa. However, this has to be done in a way that suits each generation’s respect for hierarchy. An employee from the Silent generation may be less reluctant to learn from an employee from Generation X because of their belief in hierarchy. Although this may be challenging, it is important to do because each generation can teach the others important things. Generation X and Y can help the older generations by teaching them about technology and how to multi-task (“Cross-Generational Mentoring”, 2015). The Silent generation can teach employees in Generation Y how to stay focused at work because they tend to get distracted easily.
One last recommendation is to make sure that performance management is effective for al generations. Today, there is a lot more frequency in performance feedback. Some employer’s may even give performance reviews every week. For the Silent Generation, this is difficult to adapt to because they are used to either good or bad feedback less frequently (Buahene, 2013). Baby Boomers like to be a part of the process, so allowing them to be involved in the conversation about their performance will be most effective. Generation X and Y employees will expect performance evaluations more often (Buahene, 2013). According to Carr-Ruffino (2015, p.587), Generation Y has “been pumped up to believe they can achieve anything”, they often fear failure and may not expect negative feedback. To best approach them, a manager should highlight the positive things they have been doing and together create a plan to help them improve.
Basically, all of these recommendations come down to implementing a diversity training program. By getting a group of employees together, from all levels of the company, topics such as communication, technology, and generational differences can be discussed openly. Once objectives for the program have been made, than a workshop can be put together for the employees. During the workshop, presentations of information regarding age differences as well as participative activities can help employees understand the intergeneration conflict better and how to avoid it. Everyone can benefit from diversity training, from CEO to manager to their subordinates.
Conclusion
Understanding how different generations work is key to managing an effective cross-generational work team. All generations will bring different values and work ethics to the table, so without knowledge on how the individual generation works, managing all four generations effectively will never be achieved. Having knowledge about basic values and beliefs of the each generation will make it easier to manage them all effectively. Accomadating these generations will allow all workers to learn new ways of working which will not only benefit the company now, but in the future as well. According to Wloczewski, this is important because Generation Z is becoming of working age and although “not much is known of their working behavior yet”, being able to bridge the current generational gaps will help for when Generation Z is integrated into the work force (2014). Age diversity in the workplace can be an overwhelming thought, but if time is taken, managing a cross-generational work team will be easy and effective.

References
Buahene, A. (2013, April 4). Getting each generation to embrace performance management. Retrieved April 07, 2016, from http://www.ngenperformance.com/blog/hr-training/getting-each-generation-to-embrace-performance-management
Carr-Ruffino, N. (2015). Managing Diversity. New York, NY: Pearson.
Cascio, W. (2015). Managing Human Resources: Productivity, Quality of Work Life, Profits (10th ed.). New York, NY: McGraw Hill Education.
Cross-Generational Mentoring. (2015, March 25). Retrieved March 28, 2016, from http://www.payscale.com/compensation-today/2015/03/effective-management-of-multi-generational-work-teams
Hammill, G. (n.d.). Mixing and Managing Four Generations of Employees. Retrieved March 28, 2016, from http://fdu.edu/newspubs/magazine/05ws/generations.htm
Thielfoldt, D., & Scheef, D. (2004, August). Generation X and The Millennials: What You Need to Know About Mentoring the New Generations. Retrieved March 28, 2016, from http://apps.americanbar.org/lpm/lpt/articles/mgt08044.html
Wloczewski, C. (2014, July 28). Cross-Generational Mentoring - CreativeExecs. Retrieved March 28, 2016, from http://www.cellaconsulting.com/blog/cross-generational-mentoring/

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