How to Get Along With Colleagues from Different Generations

Reviewed Aug 10, 2017

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Summary

  • Examine your own attitude and behavior.
  • Learn about the generations.
  • Embrace the differences.
  • Find common ground.

There is always a chance of clash or conflict among co-workers—that’s human nature. In today’s workplace, that chance is greater than ever with employees from several different generations.

Research suggests that a person’s generation can bring with it a unique set of:

  • Beliefs and values
  • Attitudes about work and life in general
  • Styles of work and communication

These differences can lead to misunderstandings, offense, and trouble getting along with each other at work. Yet there are things you can do to bridge the generation gap at work and help create a positive workplace.

Look in the mirror

A great place to start is with you. What is your attitude toward your co-workers from different generations? Are you relying on stereotypes? Boxing them in with stereotypes is not the answer. Neither is assuming that your way of working and communicating is the only right way.

Check your thoughts and behaviors for habits that may cause conflict. Be on the lookout for ways you might mistreat others such as:

  • Patronizing or being condescending
  • Judging and criticizing
  • Gossiping
  • Mocking
  • Excluding others

behaviors are problematic with co-workers of any age. Be alert to how you may be doing these things, even subtly.

Learn more about the generations

After taking an honest look at how you treat your older and/or younger co-workers, consider learning more about the many generations of people in the workplace today. What are the differences in values and life experiences that may show up at work? How might work styles and communication differ?

When learning about generational traits, keep this advice in mind:

  • Don’t assume that every person embodies every detail describing a generation.
  • The information is for your own purposes, not to use against your co-workers or to preach to them.
  • Your best resource is at work with you—be willing to ask polite questions of your younger or older co-workers about their values and life experiences. Show a genuine interest in getting to know them better.

Embrace the differences

You may have already seen how a mix of generations at work has helped your organization. Look for benefits, such as a wider range of viewpoints on teams, increased efficiency, or greater customer satisfaction. Let that be your focus—how mixing several generations benefits your workplace. Does a younger co-worker’s ease with technology help your team? Does an older co-worker’s detail-orientation help create a better product?

Reflect also on how working with different generations benefits you. Perhaps it is helping you by:

  • Opening your thoughts to a new way of seeing things
  • Challenging you to grow in relating to others
  • Giving you different approaches to communicating or working that you admire and want to imitate

Find common ground

With so much attention on how the generations can differ, don’t forget to appreciate what you all have in common, besides your place of employment.

Author Lynne Lancaster (When Generations Collide: Who They Are, Why They Clash, How to Solve the Generational Puzzle at Work) reminds us that employees of any age want to work in an atmosphere of good will, knowing they are liked, trusted, and listened to.

It also helps to remind ourselves either that we used to be that young or that we hope to be that advanced age someday.

Resources

Center for Generational Kinetics
http://genhq.com/

Generations at Work: Managing the Clash of Boomers, Gen Xers, and Gen Yers in the Workplace by Ron Zemke. AMACOM, 2013.

By Laurie M. Stewart
Source: When Generations Collide: Who They Are, Why They Clash, How to Solve the Generational Puzzle at Work by Lynne Lancaster and David Stillman. Harper Business, 2002; "Mixing and Managing 4 Generations of Employees." (2005) FDU Magazine, www.fdu.edu/newspubs/magazine/05ws/generations.htm; Stencel, B. (2001) "Tips Offered to Close the Generation Gap in the Workplace." University of Wisconsin-extension, www.uwex.edu

Summary

  • Examine your own attitude and behavior.
  • Learn about the generations.
  • Embrace the differences.
  • Find common ground.

There is always a chance of clash or conflict among co-workers—that’s human nature. In today’s workplace, that chance is greater than ever with employees from several different generations.

Research suggests that a person’s generation can bring with it a unique set of:

  • Beliefs and values
  • Attitudes about work and life in general
  • Styles of work and communication

These differences can lead to misunderstandings, offense, and trouble getting along with each other at work. Yet there are things you can do to bridge the generation gap at work and help create a positive workplace.

Look in the mirror

A great place to start is with you. What is your attitude toward your co-workers from different generations? Are you relying on stereotypes? Boxing them in with stereotypes is not the answer. Neither is assuming that your way of working and communicating is the only right way.

Check your thoughts and behaviors for habits that may cause conflict. Be on the lookout for ways you might mistreat others such as:

  • Patronizing or being condescending
  • Judging and criticizing
  • Gossiping
  • Mocking
  • Excluding others

behaviors are problematic with co-workers of any age. Be alert to how you may be doing these things, even subtly.

Learn more about the generations

After taking an honest look at how you treat your older and/or younger co-workers, consider learning more about the many generations of people in the workplace today. What are the differences in values and life experiences that may show up at work? How might work styles and communication differ?

When learning about generational traits, keep this advice in mind:

  • Don’t assume that every person embodies every detail describing a generation.
  • The information is for your own purposes, not to use against your co-workers or to preach to them.
  • Your best resource is at work with you—be willing to ask polite questions of your younger or older co-workers about their values and life experiences. Show a genuine interest in getting to know them better.

Embrace the differences

You may have already seen how a mix of generations at work has helped your organization. Look for benefits, such as a wider range of viewpoints on teams, increased efficiency, or greater customer satisfaction. Let that be your focus—how mixing several generations benefits your workplace. Does a younger co-worker’s ease with technology help your team? Does an older co-worker’s detail-orientation help create a better product?

Reflect also on how working with different generations benefits you. Perhaps it is helping you by:

  • Opening your thoughts to a new way of seeing things
  • Challenging you to grow in relating to others
  • Giving you different approaches to communicating or working that you admire and want to imitate

Find common ground

With so much attention on how the generations can differ, don’t forget to appreciate what you all have in common, besides your place of employment.

Author Lynne Lancaster (When Generations Collide: Who They Are, Why They Clash, How to Solve the Generational Puzzle at Work) reminds us that employees of any age want to work in an atmosphere of good will, knowing they are liked, trusted, and listened to.

It also helps to remind ourselves either that we used to be that young or that we hope to be that advanced age someday.

Resources

Center for Generational Kinetics
http://genhq.com/

Generations at Work: Managing the Clash of Boomers, Gen Xers, and Gen Yers in the Workplace by Ron Zemke. AMACOM, 2013.

By Laurie M. Stewart
Source: When Generations Collide: Who They Are, Why They Clash, How to Solve the Generational Puzzle at Work by Lynne Lancaster and David Stillman. Harper Business, 2002; "Mixing and Managing 4 Generations of Employees." (2005) FDU Magazine, www.fdu.edu/newspubs/magazine/05ws/generations.htm; Stencel, B. (2001) "Tips Offered to Close the Generation Gap in the Workplace." University of Wisconsin-extension, www.uwex.edu

Summary

  • Examine your own attitude and behavior.
  • Learn about the generations.
  • Embrace the differences.
  • Find common ground.

There is always a chance of clash or conflict among co-workers—that’s human nature. In today’s workplace, that chance is greater than ever with employees from several different generations.

Research suggests that a person’s generation can bring with it a unique set of:

  • Beliefs and values
  • Attitudes about work and life in general
  • Styles of work and communication

These differences can lead to misunderstandings, offense, and trouble getting along with each other at work. Yet there are things you can do to bridge the generation gap at work and help create a positive workplace.

Look in the mirror

A great place to start is with you. What is your attitude toward your co-workers from different generations? Are you relying on stereotypes? Boxing them in with stereotypes is not the answer. Neither is assuming that your way of working and communicating is the only right way.

Check your thoughts and behaviors for habits that may cause conflict. Be on the lookout for ways you might mistreat others such as:

  • Patronizing or being condescending
  • Judging and criticizing
  • Gossiping
  • Mocking
  • Excluding others

behaviors are problematic with co-workers of any age. Be alert to how you may be doing these things, even subtly.

Learn more about the generations

After taking an honest look at how you treat your older and/or younger co-workers, consider learning more about the many generations of people in the workplace today. What are the differences in values and life experiences that may show up at work? How might work styles and communication differ?

When learning about generational traits, keep this advice in mind:

  • Don’t assume that every person embodies every detail describing a generation.
  • The information is for your own purposes, not to use against your co-workers or to preach to them.
  • Your best resource is at work with you—be willing to ask polite questions of your younger or older co-workers about their values and life experiences. Show a genuine interest in getting to know them better.

Embrace the differences

You may have already seen how a mix of generations at work has helped your organization. Look for benefits, such as a wider range of viewpoints on teams, increased efficiency, or greater customer satisfaction. Let that be your focus—how mixing several generations benefits your workplace. Does a younger co-worker’s ease with technology help your team? Does an older co-worker’s detail-orientation help create a better product?

Reflect also on how working with different generations benefits you. Perhaps it is helping you by:

  • Opening your thoughts to a new way of seeing things
  • Challenging you to grow in relating to others
  • Giving you different approaches to communicating or working that you admire and want to imitate

Find common ground

With so much attention on how the generations can differ, don’t forget to appreciate what you all have in common, besides your place of employment.

Author Lynne Lancaster (When Generations Collide: Who They Are, Why They Clash, How to Solve the Generational Puzzle at Work) reminds us that employees of any age want to work in an atmosphere of good will, knowing they are liked, trusted, and listened to.

It also helps to remind ourselves either that we used to be that young or that we hope to be that advanced age someday.

Resources

Center for Generational Kinetics
http://genhq.com/

Generations at Work: Managing the Clash of Boomers, Gen Xers, and Gen Yers in the Workplace by Ron Zemke. AMACOM, 2013.

By Laurie M. Stewart
Source: When Generations Collide: Who They Are, Why They Clash, How to Solve the Generational Puzzle at Work by Lynne Lancaster and David Stillman. Harper Business, 2002; "Mixing and Managing 4 Generations of Employees." (2005) FDU Magazine, www.fdu.edu/newspubs/magazine/05ws/generations.htm; Stencel, B. (2001) "Tips Offered to Close the Generation Gap in the Workplace." University of Wisconsin-extension, www.uwex.edu

The information provided on the Achieve Solutions site, including, but not limited to, articles, quizzes, and other general information, is for informational purposes only and should not be treated as medical, health care, psychiatric, psychological or behavioral health care advice. Nothing contained on the Achieve Solutions site is intended to be used for medical diagnosis or treatment or as a substitute for consultation with a qualified health care professional. Please direct questions regarding the operation of the Achieve Solutions site to Web Feedback. If you have concerns about your health, please contact your health care provider.  ©2017 Beacon Health Options, Inc.

 

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