How do the different generations in your workplace get along?

In their recent book, “The 100 year life,” Gratton and Scot point out that “teenagers” and “retirees” are relatively new concepts, invented since the 1930’s. However, we have added all sorts of other labels since, like Baby Boomers, Generations X and Y and   Millennials. We talk about our “Third Age”. Oh and “18-30” is no longer a time when people of that age go on dubious holidays in Ibiza.  No, this is the stage for transitioning to full time work, searching and experimenting, working out how they want to spend the next seven or so decades.  Do the different generations get along in the workplace?  Read More

 

More Stages in Life that Just Three!

Simon Kuper, writing in the FT says “After studying, the young will spend time travelling, exploring different sectors, and assembling a posse of friends who can sustain them at work and outside for 70 years.”Studying, by the way, means taking more than one degree, focussing on skills which teach ways of thinking and ideally skills with life long value, as sector specific skills will soon go out of date.  This sounds great fun and means that there are many more stages in life than just three.

 Generation X vs the Millenial Generation

However it can lead to conflict in the work place. One survey comments that Gen X (that’s my generation, I think) brings a “culture of quality, work ethic, and reciprocal relationships, in which the organization and the employee work together to achieve a common goal.” As a result they find the Millennial generation impossibly leisure orientated and focused on their own development rather than contributing to the organisation.

It isn’t always helpful to label people of course and Millennials have their own views about the limitations of Generation X. But broad categorisation can help plan training. In particular, helping older employees to take stock of and value the many skills they have learnt in traditional office jobs can be a very important way of planning for their “third age.” Utilising those skills in the workplace rather than encouraging retirement can be even more helpful.

Mentoring by older workers

A particularly good example of the skills older workers bring to the table is mentoring. Through mentoring, Gen X can help Millennials learn crucial people skills—such as empathy, adaptability, group dynamics, employee motivation, communication styles, and relationship building—as well as management and leadership styles. They can therefore increase the odds that younger millennials will be successful in a future management or leadership role.

Mentoring doesn’t have to be full time and for those employees looking to continue to contribute to the organisation while reducing working hours can be a great way of transitioning.

Margaret Cheng

Senior Consultant

Margaret Martin Associates Ltd

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