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Bridging the Gap – Multiple Generations Working Together

April 9, 2012

Millenials, Gen Xers, Boomers oh my! We’ve all heard the terms and have our own ideas of the general qualities of each group, but we are still not very comfortable working with another generation. The problem with this is that we may end up feeling undervalued and the productivity of the team suffers. Imagine if we could throw away this angst…

I recently attended an educational session at the 49th Annual AFP International Conference called Bridging the Gap: Millenials and Boomers Working Together to Get Things Done. During this one-hour session, the presenter helped participants understand each generation and gave some easy steps of how to better work together with other generations.

Step 1: Acknowledge and understand the generational differences. Start by remembering what each generation has experienced and accomplished. This will help you to understand why the generalities are what they are. For example, Boomers (born 1946-1964) lived through Watergate, the JFK assassination, Vietnam War. These have led to distrust and cynism, difficulty with change, and protected individualism. Millenials (born 1980-2002) grew up on the Internet, experienced 9/11, and entered the workforce at a time of financial insecurity. These have led to impatience, collaborative work styles, and tolerance.

Step 2: Throw away the angst of the other generation(s). The qualities listed above and those running through your mind as you think about each generation are pre-conceived notions and do not represent each individual person. Some of the generational qualities may be true for the individual, but more often than not, we find that individual qualities are cross-generational based on how someone was brought up, their life experiences and how he/she learns best.

Step 3: Be accepting of each other’s differences and leverage the individual strengths for the betterment of the team, working conditions and overall quality of life. Considering you spend a majority of your day-time hours at work, wouldn’t it be best to enjoy that time and get along with those you are with? I know, easier said than done – but it’s important to know that no single generation can change the world alone! Approach each situation cooperatively and open-minded realizing that each person’s strengths are different, but important.

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