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Recognizing Generation Stereotypes In The Workplace

Ever have one of those moments when you realize it’s a generational difference that’s causing you frustration? I had one recently with my mother-in-law.

Ever have one of those moments when you realize it’s a generational difference that’s causing you frustration? I had one recently with my mother-in-law.

I could barely sit through the story she told me about how she repeatedly scours the stores looking for a specific fondue pot she broke years ago. “Why not just order it on Amazon?” I asked her, flabbergasted. Well, she hadn’t thought of it. After our conversation, she ordered it on Amazon. That also surprised me because I thought she was afraid of online shopping.

With more than three generations working together, misunderstandings based on stereotypes happen all the time in the workplace. Getting past stereotypes is the first step in being part of and creating excellent teams.

It’s tempting to say that stereotypes exist for a reason, and use that as general proof they are true. Of course, there is a reason, but that doesn’t make them true, and it doesn’t excuse you from getting past them.

If you’re buying into stereotypes, you’re limiting contributions by others and missing opportunities yourself. Let’s take another approach.

Gen Y: Entitled & lazy

While many may see the shirking of “busy work” as lazy or entitled to better things, could actually be a desire not to waste time. Leverage their skills and motivate seemingly entitled and lazy team members. When assigning Millennials work it will help if you:

  • Explain why it’s important, not just that they need to do it
  • Show them the bigger picture
  • Give them regular feedback
  • Offer challenging work, don’t let them get bored

Gen X: Cynical & poor team members

Don’t count Gen X out for group activities just because you’ve heard they are cynical loners at work. When given the right motivations, Xers are great team players. You’ll encourage teamwork if you:

  • Give them choices, let them use their resourcefulness
  • Give them goals and let them figure out how to reach them
  • Provide mentorship
  • Avoid micromanaging

Boomers: Out of touch & disinterested in learning new things

After years of being called on by parents and older relatives to provide IT support, it might be understandable that the younger generations view Boomers as out of touch and disinterested in learning new skills. But that’s not true. And the Boomers haven’t all retired yet, which is perfect since we still need to make the most of their strengths in the workforce. Confront these stereotypes head on:

  • Set up a mentoring program so they can share their knowledge and learn from mentees
  • Offer them training
  • Give them challenging work
  • Give them titles and authority that match their years of experience

Want to know a secret?

There is no real difference.

Research done at the University of Kentucky and Kutztown University reports that despite the many stereotypes of each generation, there is no real differences when it came to work ethic or job values.

So, stop wasting time blaming work issues on stereotypes. That’s lazy. Learn to recognize what’s actually keeping you from being a fully functional multi-generational team, and get over it.

Take the first step towards your future.

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