We all know the generational stereotypes, the Veterans (born before 1945) are fossilized with their command and control style, the Baby Boomers (46-64) are narcissistic and place huge importance on loyalty, Gen X (65-80) are slackers with their work life balance mantra and the Millennials (80-2000) tend to come off the worst of all as the most entitled generation, the Peter Pan generation who don’t want to grow up.

Longer careers, changes in the workplace, reduced job stability and financial security for retirement, have generations working together longer than in the past, and these generalized stereotypes are often cited as a cause of workplace conflict. They are insulting and misguided at best. By  2020 millennials will comprise of ½ of the global workforce with Canadian Boomers only making up 18.7% of the current employment statistics. This mix of generations will not be going away anytime soon, and we need to ensure we embrace it and get the most from it.

At Lighthouse NINE, we believe it is much easier to find what makes us similar across the generations than what makes us different. We believe this is key to redefining stereotypes and embracing the diversity.

A study by Jossey-Bass (2007) found that at a values level the different generations are essentially the same:

  • Family tends to top the list for everyone.
  • We all want a leader we can trust.
  • We are uncomfortable with change depending on what we stand to gain or loose.
  • We all want to learn.
  • We all want to know how we are doing and what we can do to improve.
  • We all want to be respected (although we may define respect differently).

We also know that workplace conflicts, when you dig deeper, are less to do with differences across the generational groups and more to do with clout; who has it and who wants it, along with miscommunication and misunderstanding, often fuelled by common insecurities.

By following these five simple tips you can get the best out of everyone and help manage potential conflict:

  1. Seek first to understand then to be understood. The more you understand someone, the better you can adapt your style.
  2. Establish rapport as the key to communication, influence, and trust.
  3. Find a common ground, a shared goal or interest.
  4. Know the anti-patterns, don’t rub people the wrong way intentionally.
  5. Use different thinking styles to increase creativity, improve problem solving and decision making.

It has been proven that organizations that embrace diversity in their management and corporate boards achieve better financial results, attract more customers, have increased sales revenue, greater profits and greater market share. Harnessing the power of the generations in your workplace will help deliver all of that and potentially more and that is something we can all agree on.

For more information on how to unlock the potential of your people, check out the L9 resources page to view our Learning & Development Guide.

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