“The job of every generation is to discover
the flaws of the one that came before it. That’s part of growing up, figuring
out all the ways your parents and their friends are broken.”
― Justine Larbalestier, Zombies Vs. Unicorns
We’ve heard this many times, Baby Boomers who struggle adapting to new technology and Millenials who resist loyalty and don’t like to work in offices. These urban legends have been passed around to the point many don’t question their validity and the stereotypes these have painted. People of every generation are multi-faceted, complicated and bring with them many aspects that cannot be neatly compartmentalized into age stereotyping. Here are some ways to develop and maintain healthy relationships with your coworkers regardless of their age.
Look beyond generalizations and stereotypes
Be aware that people in every generation are not a homogenous group and have many differences between them as do other generations. Focus on and learn to appreciate them as individuals and not as members of a particular age group. There are many factors that support people to be the way they are apart from the influences of growing up in a particular generation. Family of origin, race, ethnic origin, social status and childhood experiences have significant impact on all of us, apart from the time period we grew up in.
Accept differences and avoid judgments
Every generation has a built in bias that their way of doing things may be the best way. Instead of looking at it in these terms, try to envision a style or manner where we feel comfortable and makes sense to us. Look at the viewpoints of those in other generations as neither right or wrong, but different. Instead of trying to impose our viewpoints onto them, strive to learn more about why they think the way they do.
Strive to understand
Instead of rushing to judgment, make an effort to look beneath the actions and thoughts of people of other generations to see how they arrived to those thoughts and behaviors. What are the factors that lead them to think and act in this way? Taking the time to learn about situations that another generation was raised, which is different from ours, helps to appreciate the factors that lead them to look at the world differently from the way we do. This could be simple to do, be a good listener.
Reach beyond your own age group
Don’t get trapped into the experiences and preferences of your own age group. Check out some music, reading and other cultural activities of another era. It will be a pleasant surprise for many people of that age for you to show some curiosity in what interests them. This effort will go a long way towards breaking down stereotypes. Take opportunities to join teams or work on projects with coworkers of various ages. Join clubs and activities that have people in a wide variety of age groups.
Look for ways to use differences to your advantage
Instead of taking an adversarial view of differences, look for ways that both generations can benefit. Both technical ability and wisdom from experience are important. Ever generation will bring strengths and weaknesses. Consider that with a variety of generations you can take advantage of their strengths and eliminate weak spots. This will make for a stronger, more cohesive, effective and balanced workplace. Look for ways to simply appreciate differences and use them to build healthy workplace relationships.