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Is there a clash between older and younger generations?

Uncover the truth behind workplace generational clashes and discover three essential keys to fostering harmony in a multi-generational workforce.

There is a strong myth perpetuating within the workforce that there is a clash between older and younger generations. While there are unique experiences that influence and affect each generation, potential clashes between employees have less to do with a generation divide and instead are more likely to be affected by individual personality differences between workers. Here are three key factors* that will help create a stronger harmony within a multi-generational workplace.

#1 Key: Age is more likely to affect personalities than their generation

It is easy to assume that baby boomers, Gen X, millennials, and Gen Z generations all differ significantly as each generation entered the workforce under drastically different conditions. However, there is a proven pattern that when it comes to workplace relations, age effects trump generational effects every time as age plays a far larger role in shaping an individual’s personality.

“The personality data of a baby boomer and a Gen Z worker collected at the same age will show little to no difference because of generation. This is because personality factors tend to remain consistent across ages. For example, the priorities and desires of a 20-year-old will remain the same regardless of the decade they were that age” explained Dr. Ryne Sherman. Early-career workers tend to be somewhat more emotional, bold, daring, and risk-taking, on average. These personality strengths are likely to benefit someone with less work experience. In someone further advanced in their career, those same characteristics might seem immature or irresponsible, which could lead to potential clashes among teams.

#2 Key: Different generations have different motivations

One of the challenges that leaders face is how to engage a multi-generational workforce that consists of people who differ in their perceptions and approaches to work. For example, Gen Z is the most racially, ethnically, and gender-diverse generation in history, and its members are more likely than any previous generation to expect organisations to have diversity, equity, and inclusion, or DE&I, programs in place. So, seeking out companies that have these measures in place will be a higher priority for them as opposed to older generations.

Younger people tend to prioritise socialising, networking, and collaborating with others, while older people prefer more solitary work and don’t feel a need to socialise. Older people are also less likely to look for public acknowledgement and recognition of their contributions and achievements, and are likely to prefer focusing on deliverables rather than spending time focusing on socialising. “While the generational differences outlined above are useful to consider when managing multi-generational teams, it is important to remember and respect each team member as an individual and to seek to understand their motivators at work” noted Dr. Ryne Sherman.

#3 Key: Leading a multi-generational team successfully

What people want is not driven by belonging to a specific generation. Adults entering the workforce today have characteristics in common with their baby boomer counterparts when the baby boomers were beginning their careers. People who want to know how to lead today’s generation should recall their own career goals when entering the workforce—such as stability with opportunity for development.

Younger people will be seeking acknowledgement, celebration in their roles, and factors that enable work-life balance to keep them engaged. Younger people prefer jobs where they can influence others, challenge themselves, and focus on achievement and success. They also strive for a sense of certainty and predictability. Whereas older people prefer upholding traditional ways of working, respecting a sense of hierarchy, and being good organisational citizens. “The greatest part of our personality comes from individual differences. Treating people as individuals rather than as members of a generation is the best approach in work and life. Finding a balance between these views and offering an environment that reaches a happy medium is the key” stated Dr. Ryne Sherman.

*Guide provided by Hogan Assessments

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