I love my birthday. I love everything about it – treats at the office in the morning, lunch with great coworkers and dinner with family. It’s always a great day from start to finish. But 2012 will be different.
2012 is a milestone birthday year and it’s given me pause. It’s just such a round number. A big number. And society is sending me mixed messages about it – I’m either over the hill or life is just beginning. I’m under pressure to have the perfect party, take a fabulous trip or do something else to acknowledge this monumental occasion.
As I lamented to coworkers about this, we discovered that a number of us are celebrating milestones. On our team alone, we have people who will turn 30, 40, 50 and 60 this year! Wow, we could be the poster children for bridging the generation gap in the workplace!
We have all four generations of the US population represented:
Matures/Traditionalists: Born between 1925 – 1945, 75 million
Baby Boomers: Born between 1946 – 1964, 80 million
Generation X: Born between 1965 – 1981, 46 million
Millennials/Generation Y: Born between 1982 – 2000, 76 million
Each generation has its own set of behaviors, attitudes, values and beliefs that were shaped by historical events and societal changes. Each has a unique approach to life, work, and technology. And each probably thinks its generation and its way of doing things is the best. This can obviously cause misunderstandings and tension in the workplace. But it can also bring new ideas and new perspectives.
Here are some tips for bridging the gaps:
1. Take time to learn about the different generations. It can be fascinating to see how historical events, political scandals, national tragedies, television shows and advances in technology can shape an entire generation. It will also let you know why you get blank stares from part of the team when you say, “You sound like a broken record,” or, “What you talkin’ about Willis?” or, “DM me on Twitter.”
2. Understand what motivates each generation. Is it most important that they feel respected, valued, independent or part of a team?
3. Understand what rewards are most significant. Is it a promotion, raise, flexible schedule or extra vacation day?
4. Communicate in the ways they want to communicate. For matures it should be formal, for boomers and gen X it should be in person and direct, for millennials an email or voicemail will do.
I have the perspective that, when it all boils down, the generations have a lot more in common than we think. Everyone wants to be respected, to contribute and do a good job and be recognized in meaningful ways. They may have different approaches and use different tools, but, in the end, we all want to be successful.
And, in general, we all want doughnuts at the office and cake for dessert on our birthdays!