Working with the generation gap

Posted by Dawn Möeder, CPA of England and Wales on May 2, 2017

With people retiring later and the next generation of employees graduating, it is currently possible to have five generations working together. What a thought! All generations have different ways of communicating. They hold different ideas about work and management. They are just different. All of these articles popping up on older generations and younger generations, and their negative ideas about the other, it’s going to lead to some tension. As a CEO or owner of the company, it’s your job to make sure that everyone is happy, or at least coexisting.

So, what exactly are some of the issues?

First, with older generations staying in the workforce longer, it puts a cap on upward mobility. Generation Y, and even Generation Xers see their superiors as a block on their path to the top. Likewise, some Traditionalists (those born before 1946), may see the younger staff as lazy, or that they lack loyalty as it’s no longer an anomaly to job hop.

When it comes to technology, the younger generations may see their more seasoned coworkers as laggards. There’s the saying, “You can’t teach old dogs new tricks,” and the implication that they aren’t able to grasp the concepts of innovation. They aren’t open to technological advances. And those seen as laggards view millennials in a negative light, that they’re “always on social media” and not hard-working.

Speaking of mobility, when someone with little experience and a few degrees becomes the manager, it can lead to more issues. For instance, an employee who has been with the company for a longer period of time may feel both threatened and insulted. Meanwhile, the new boss is still figuring out how to transition from school to work life, let alone manage people.

Collectively, all of these differences can put a strain on relationships, which puts a strain on the company as a whole. In order to cope with it, you’ll need to implement some changes.

How do you accommodate multigenerational needs?

Attitude adjustment

Anytime there is a negative comment spoken about a generation, shut it down. It’s the manager’s job to set an example, and other employees should follow suit. There should be zero tolerance for generational prejudice.

Facilitate technological change

In order to grow your company, you will need to attract younger workers. That entails having new apps, the latest software, or just even being on social media platforms to grab their attention. Then, let the younger people train employees with less experience with these resources. It can help build leadership skills, as well as good relationships.

Train newcomers to be cognizant

Not everyone is upfront about how they feel. If there are seasoned employees who are going to be working under a younger coworker, the new manager will need to 1. Realize that even though they’re technically in charge, their employees may have more experience and insight, and 2. People have different ways of communicating, and it may be easier to have a face-to-face conversation rather than email.

Open up communication

Both younger and older generations should feel comfortable working next to each other. If someone isn’t feeling that way, there should be someone there to help cater to them, and to help make it a friendly work environment.

Lastly, recognize that all team members have different skills, strengths, and areas for improvement. It is the combination of skill sets that make a successful team.


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Topics: Manufacturing & Distribution, Accounting Tips, Audit