Working well with other generations can serve as a win in the workplace

Generational differences in the workplace can be a problem or an opportunity. What can you do to make it a great match?

Working well with other generations can serve as a win in the workplace

Today we find a more causal workplace in both time and place. We have also seen a change in the dynamics of who we are working with. To meet the needs of the customers and the people we work alongside with, it can be a challenge. However, equipped with a greater understanding and improved communication skills, an employee can serve all generations and win for themselves and their establishment.

Gen Yers, millennials, Gen Xers and even baby boomers make up the bulk of the workforce today, giving it a look like a mixed-up doubles tennis tournament. However, you may not be feeling all the love when communication breaks down and the work environment starts to falter. This chaos on the court or in the workplace can affect productivity and morale.

How do we work effectively with other generations? What type of needs, goals and values do the different generations have? Reacting to teammates or coworkers in the workplace is somewhat like playing doubles in tennis. Who plays the net? Who runs the baseline? When do you come up and when do you stay back? You must understand not only your own strengths and weaknesses, but also how to react to the movements of your partner and how to handle what is coming over the net. Communication, openness and understanding can be the best approach for working with other generations. If you want to succeed in this new workplace, you’ll have to work as a team.

In this three-part series from Michigan State University Extension, I will look at the younger generations – Gen Y and millennials – and older generations – Gen X and baby boomers. Just as the demarcation lines of these generations can be debated as discussed in The Atlantic article “Here is When Each Generation Begins and Ends, According to Facts,” I, too, will use some generalities and refer to these groups as older or younger generations.

It is not just the cutoff between years that can be in debate. Please be aware of stereotypes as it is discussed by Rebecca Hastings from the Society for Human Resource Management in “Generational Differences Exist, But Beware Stereotypes.” Sometimes the data and surveys don’t match with the charts or expectations. We are all still individuals and you need to get to know the person, but we will be using these generational differences charts and this current information to gain a greater perspective and improve on our managing styles and how we better work with each other.

I will discuss how each generation can succeed in the multigenerational workplace of today. Also covered in this series will be how different generations can gain from each other the skills they may lack and how each generation can enrich the work experience. It is what each generation brings to the “court” that makes it that much more enjoyable and exciting. Working with someone of another generation can benefit your career and enrich your life.

The upcoming series will start off with communication, a key to any successful business or workplace. I will then cover the values that each of these generations possess and how to take advantage of those assets. I will touch on how to reward and give feedback to each generation. Finally, I will the address the learning aspect. Gaining from each generation an understanding of the skills they possess, and then passing that information on to others. All of which will make for better employees and a better workplace environment.

For more information on generational differences, review the generational differences charts from the West Midland Family Center or contact your local MSU Extension office. MSU Extension will also be hosting a Generational Differences Workshop May 5, 2016, from 10 a.m.-3 p.m. at the Detroit YouthVille Office, 7375 Woodward Avenue, Suite 1520, Detroit, MI, 48202. Participants will learn how to better understand the different perspectives of various generations and how these differences impact work style, communication, goals and outlooks. For more information on this workshop, visit the Generational Differences Event page.

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