For the first time in history, the modern workplace will soon need to accommodate five generations of employees all working side-by-side. As much as diversity in the workplace is desired and necessary, that does not mean it’s without a whole new set of challenges. Generational differences can be a kind of cultural difference in and of itself, so it needs to be addressed head-on. Here are three tips to effectively leading a multi-generational workplace with grace and ease.
Focus on commonalities rather than differences
There may be some minor differences in the values, traits, and qualities of baby boomers when they were 20-somethings. However, the truth is 20-something baby boomers really weren’t all that much different from 20-something Gen X’ers or 20-something Millennials. And when millennials are 50 or 60 years old, they won’t be that much different from today’s Gen X’ers or baby boomers. People are, on the whole, far more similar than they are different. You’ll be much better focusing on what unites you as a team rather than that which divides you.
Let go of stereotypes
Your team is a group of individuals, not a group of groups. While millennials in your office may have some things in common with other millennials, they will also have a number of differences. In fact, you may have a baby boomer and a millennial that are far more like each other than they are like the stereotype of their age group. Stereotypes are a way in which we quickly group the world, which is not necessarily a bad thing in certain contexts. Unless we can set them aside for the purposes of finding common ground, however, they can eventually hinder more than they help.
Quickly address and work through conflicts
Any time you lead a diverse team, conflicts will arise because of opposing or conflicting values or different ideas about the “best” way to get things done. As much as we want to believe these differences will simply work themselves out or resolve themselves, they generally don’t. Instead, animosity can often fester and create a toxic environment. Managing a team of diverse individuals of any kind requires a great deal of hands-on interaction and management. In the end, however, a diverse team has the potential to be far stronger because they bring much more to the table than a more homogenous team.