Have you noticed how intergenerational communications isn’t always so clear? Or maybe what I’ve just written isn’t so clear. Hmm. Sometimes conflicts arise because one person doesn’t understand what the other has said. Or you might misinterpret what someone has said and besides your whole day being ruined you make certain assumptions and then proceed to make certain decisions based on those assumptions and then, well, you’re in big trouble.
One of the best ways, of course, to avoid these scenarios is simply to talk less and listen more. End of story, right? Wrong. It’s never the end of the story; it is only the beginning. I wonder if companies are addressing the fact that the age range of workers today is wider than ever. With more and more people working longer, leaving retirement for others, some companies staff four generations. Talk about the generation gap. In a book titled Bridging the Generation Gap, the authors, Linda Gravett and Robin Throckmorton, define the four generations as radio babies (born 1930-1945), Boomers (born 1965-1976), Generation X (born 1965-1976) and Generation Y (born 1977-1991). How did this happen?
More importantly, what are companies doing to make it work? The authors say that one group wants the other to be the way they are. Well, sure, that would make things easier. I don’t work in a traditional office, so I’m not privy to the way these four generations communicate in the workplace, but I work with a lot of different kinds of people, all at different ages and what I’ve learned all these years is that nothing can replace plain, old-fashioned respect. The older generation often feels entitled to being in the role of advisor. After all, they’ve been around and have the war stories to prove it. But that shouldn’t give them the right to disparage a younger group of workers just because they’re, well, younger. Of course they’re less experienced. Of course they feel threatened. But the best way to overcome feelings of envy, especially when you have absolutely no control over major aspects of a situation—like your age or the age of a colleague—is to practice some form of gratitude. And if you don’t have it to give then maybe you look at the big picture, the one that imagines everyone on one team with one goal.