How to Work Better Across the Generational Divide

Like it or not, there is an apparent generational divide in the workplace. Millennials are slowly taking over, and while many see this as a good thing and an opportune solution to the upcoming silver tsunami, there are still some negative connotations associated with the m word. first-5-icon-07

One of the main concerns, both for millennials, and for more experienced professionals in the workforce, is that multigenerational age groups won’t be able to coexist. Luckily, First 5 is here to help all generations learn to effectively communicate and coordinate well with each other.

First up, here’s what millennials can do:

Observe, then voice your opinion. When you start a new job it’s important to exhibit respect and attempt to understand the way things are done. Even if you think improvements are needed, take some time to get settled before you make your thoughts heard.

But don’t wait too long. More senior-level employees will value your voice, even if they don’t agree with you. Taking initiative and having a voice show that you’re dedicated to your job and you care about what you’re doing. Other employees will recognize this as an asset to having you on the team, and it will go far in fostering strong work relationships.

Be open to leadership from higher up. One of the most prevalent stereotypes plaguing millennials is that they’re bad at receiving criticism and taking direction. To combat this stereotype, try seeking out older coworkers for advice, or possibly even mentorship.

This will prove that you’re more than open to receiving feedback because you’re welcoming it. By actively engaging with older and more experience colleagues at work, you’re showing you’re mature, opening that door of communication a little wider, and allowing for better understanding between you and your coworkers.

Show some respect. It may seem obvious, but timeliness, cleanliness and overall compliance with the office culture go a long way. Sometimes, you’ll need to go out of your way to show you’re more than just another “lazy millennial.”

First, get to work early and stay late. Show your dedication to the job and your older peers will take notice. Make sure you’re dressing appropriately and not posting immature or crude information on your social media. Putting in that extra effort will also show your supervisors that you know how to respect the rules and boundaries.

Now, for more seasoned professionals, here’s how you can do your part to make a difference to the millennial employees you supervise:

Be available to offer advice. A lot of millennial employees are just getting started in their careers and want to form professional relationships. According to this survey, millennials are interested in gaining a mentor, and 94 percent of those surveyed felt that they gained valuable advice from their mentors.

And while you don’t have to formally offer yourself as a mentor, or go through a mentorship program, just being there to offer your life advice and guidance means a lot to entry-level employees. Offering lessons on valuable experiences you’ve had can help to bridge that generational gap while cultivating meaningful relationships.

Recognize your differences. There are some core values and differences between millennials and older generations that need to be identified in order to move on to a healthy relationship. For example, more experienced professionals are shown to value a more career-driven life, while millennials tend to aim for more work-life balance.

Regardless of differences, cooperation is possible. In fact, by acknowledging the ideas and morals that separate you from millennials in your office, you can effectively work towards coming together to make the office a more collaborative and enlightened space.

Give them room to grow. Most millennials report that they wish they had more hours in the work day to spend receiving mentoring or coaching, and developing new skills and leadership practices. As someone with more exposure to such things, you can offer millennials room and time to grow in their skills, and help them feel valued.

Letting them know about interesting and important opportunities inside and outside of the office, such as lunch and coffee outings, area events and happy hours, and involving them with more senior-level meetings can show millennials all the potential room for growth you have at your agency. And with a majority of millennials not planning on staying at any one job for too long, incorporating them into more office activities can only help to encourage loyalty, if nothing else.

Really, though, millennials and older generations aren’t that different, especially in the workplace. There may be some key differences that can be a factor in how often you two get lunch together or hang out outside the office, but there’s no reason you can’t both benefit from each other’s unique perspectives. Tuning in and doing your best to engage with other generations can go a long way in creating a better overall workplace.

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