Multiple Generations in the Same Office. Disaster or Great Learning Experience?

Want to ride with a Millenial?

These are just some of the titles of the press releases that seem to find their way into my inbox every few weeks. As someone born in late 1981, I am on the cusp between Gen X and Gen Y, at least I am according to demographers. However, culturally, I share a lot more with Gen Y.

As you might imagine, I am beginning to get annoyed with this characterization. I don't know how to handle all of this attention without developing a bit of a complex. See, I don't consider myself to be part of something that warrants being discussed like an invading force or disease.

These press releases, some of which are sent out on behalf of AIChE webinars, share some common observations:

  • Younger people want different things out of life than older people, such as flex-time, a better life-work balance, etc.
  • They don't have the same "patience" for advancement that older workers think they had when they entered the workforce.
  • They require constant feedback.
  • Depending on your approach, constructive criticism may backfire.

I don't consider any of this to be particularly untrue, but everyone's experience is different. And there are dangers to forgetting this.

Certainly, older workers will encounter 20-somethings who want things out of both their professional and personal lives that the older workers will not understand. So what? I'm sure they faced the same puzzled looks when they entered the workforce. Just talk to each other about your needs and expectations. When you start judging someone based on whatever demographic class he/she belongs to, you risk making a false assumption.

Please take the poll below and share any stories you may have about intergenerational clashes in the workplace.

FYI: Based on anecdotal evidence of peers in a variety of fields, I expect to see stories about: having Gmail running in the background while working, working with headphones on, working from home, non-traditional methods of calling out sick!



jvasko's picture

Looking at the poll results, it's clear that the "silent generation" haven't yet read this post (or at least participated). Matt, I can understand your frustration of getting sick of being labeled. Society grabs on to these labels largely created by marketers (in my opinion). Granted there are differences in how younger and older people operate and there are some generalization that can be made but too many generalizations lead to stereotypes, which don't help anyone. Being at the cusp of boomer and x, I share your pain. I certainly don't feel behind the times in terms of the way I work or interact with generations younger than me but I do sometimes notice some differences. Mostly, I feel like everyone needs to be more considerate of one another, especially in their electronic communication Knowing when to call, send an e-mail, or speak to someone in person is important no matter what age.