Employers should avoid making assumptions about generational differences in their workforce and give members of different generations more chances to work together on projects to build collaboration. Wayne Heilman writes for the Colorado Springs Gazette that speaker Bridget Morris, of the Denver-based Mountain States Employers Council, spoke to at an employment law conference in Colorado Springs on Thursday about generational differences.
Morris explained that more employers will have younger employees supervising older workers, but that doesn’t have to set the stage for conflict. She emphasized the similarities and strengths of each generation rather than the differences and perceived weaknesses stemming from assumptions about each generation.
“Just because you were born in a certain year doesn’t mean that is the generation you identify with,” Morris said. “Who we are is much more shaped by internal factors such as how we were raised, the values instilled in us, level of acceptance by peers, birth order and family dynamic and level of education as well as external factors such as where we were raised, when we were born, historical events in our lifetime and our household environment. The key is to find collaborative projects that capitalize on the need everyone has to know their job is contributing to the good of the company.”
That doesn’t mean there won’t be conflict between members of different generations, Morris said. That conflict often is the product of differing assumptions about work such as punctuality, respect for authority, work schedule and time off, rewarding good work and career advancement. She recommends employers identify behaviors that trigger conflict, discuss how that behavior affects coworkers and determine what each side of the conflict wants.
Employers also need to cultivate leadership among younger workers in the millennial generation, born between 1980 and 2004, and Generation Z, born since 2004, by providing opportunities for career advancement, treating all employees with respect and fairness, acknowledging their contribution and fulfilling a greater social purpose in their work, Morris said.