Sunday, June 10, 2007

Negotiating Generational Differences at Work

Have you ever had tension at work because of generational differences? I certainly have. I'm firmly in the middle of Generation X, but I seem to always have Baby Boomer bosses. And they don't particularly get me, and I don't particularly get them.

In fact, if I had to describe how a former Baby Boomer boss views me, it would be as a sort of slacker, who over prioritized personal time and hobbies, and felt entitled to leave at 5 p.m. (or, god forbid, earlier). Meanwhile, I saw her as a workaholic with a penchant for useless meetings.

Pleasant, eh?

Why was I like that? So judgmental and unkind in my thoughts of her. I think I expected her to be more like me. And she expected me to more like her. Even though we tend to talk the talk of diversity in the workplace, we often expect people to have similar work styles to our own. We didn't respect that there are significant generational differences in attitudes toward work.

The Workplace generation gap gives a helpful overview of the workplace attitudes of different generations. I found this extremely useful, but rather than summarizing each generation, you should read the entire article. It also gives tips for Generation X and Baby Boomer work relationships. I've excerpted a few strategies below.

Strategies for Generation X with Baby Boomers

Show respect. We need to let the Boomers know that they do indeed have experience and that we can learn from them.

Choose face-to-face conversations. We need to create opportunities that are less-technology-oriented with some Boomers.

Give Boomers your full attention (avoid multitasking when they are talking to you).

Play the game. Boomers are known for being able to play office politics well.

Learn the corporate history. Respect that there was a past before you, the Gen X, came into the world. :)

Strategies for Baby Boomers with Generation X

Get to the point. Avoid corporate jargon. This tends to annoy the hell out of Gen X.

Use e-mail. Gen X tends to love The Email.

Don't micromanage. Give members of Gen X direction and then allow them to figure out the best way to get results.

Get over the notion of dues paying. Gen X isn't wed to this idea as Boomers are. They don't want to suffer forever in hopes of some ultimate payoff.

Remind yourself that it's OK for work to be fun. Please.

Read the full article at Workplace generation gap: Understand differences among colleagues.