Workshop C: How to Influence an Intergenerational Workforce

<<Back to Main Meeting Page

How to Influence an Intergenerational Workforce

Traditionalists, Baby Boomers, Generations Xers, and Millennials display divergent attitudes about life and work, and these differences can cause friction in the workplace unless people know how to work with each other. In a workshop at the AF4Q National Meeting in November 2013, workplace expert Alexandra Levit led participants through exercises targeting ways to understand each other better and find common ground.

The recession was a reality check for some young professionals, Levit said, and it motivated some of them to work harder. But some resentment and communications issues across generations linger.

What are these issues? According to Levit, Baby Boomers tend to resent Millennials’ sense of entitlement and find their communication style to be “brazen.” Millennials, on the other hand, want more frequent communication and often find older co-workers inaccessible. Further, they are annoyed by inflexibility and bureaucracy that older workers often don’t question.

Levit offered possible solutions to help the different groups bridge the generation gap. To the older generations, she suggested getting Millennials started out right, since they’re not a group that likes to give second chances. Levit suggested:
• Helping younger workers with in-person networking, since their attachment to electronic communications has left some of them less experienced in face-to-face encounters;
• Encouraging constant learning because they tend to love hands-on learning, or apprenticing;
• Customizing their schedules and assignments;
• Explaining the big picture to them so they know what piece they are playing; and
• Providing frequent and constructive feedback.

To the Millennials, Levit suggested they focus on transferable skills they can use later in their careers. This generation likes to make an impact right away, but Levit said they should focus that impact by taking initiative with one small contribution at a time. Millennials also should take charge of their own careers and set their own goals rather than expect others to plot a path for them. Ways they can accomplish this might include attending third-party conferences and learning from generations exiting the workforce.

All the generations currently in the workforce should be interested and assertive, Levit said, expressing their beliefs while respecting others’ differing opinions. They should ask questions and remember the answers. Overall, regardless of the age of the person you are working with, it goes a long way when you display genuine interest, find commonality, and give respect.

Read more of Leavit’s tips on managing an intergenerational workforce, and browse through the books she’s written on career development and workplace dynamics.