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Generation Gap

Bridging Multi-Generational Gaps: Sharing Common Values

Summer Pailet & Harriet Whiting

Today, we have 4 generations in the workplace, each with different beliefs, expectations, values, learning styles and desires, resulting in a strong tendency for each of them to adopt different work habits. Creating and coordinating programs that support communication and collaboration between all the generations present will help to alleviate difficulties internally and externally. Both sides need to be aware to not stereotype any of the generational groups, but rather to create a cohesive workplace.  We need to view generational differences as a valuable strength, not a weakness.

Until recent years, generations were separated at work by rank and status. In most organizations, the oldest employees filled executive positions, the middle-aged held mid-management jobs, and the youngest worked on the front lines. People didn’t collaborate between roles and responsibilities much less, certainly didn’t share physical work space. Today, four distinct generations work side by side to problem solve problems, innovate, make decisions, design and execute, manage projects, and add value to customers.

It is vital in a healthy organization to understand their employees are a diverse and complex group of people possessing different requirements and desires. Although there are significant differences in the value each generation places on various aspects of the work environment, there are some common expectations and values that all generations share.

Research created by CCL, “Looking past the Stereotypes”, found we all more values in common than we thought.

  • Truth #1 – all generations have similar values. “Family” is the value chosen most frequently by people of all generations. Other shared values included integrity, achievement, love, competence, happiness, self respect, wisdom, balance and responsibility.
  • Truth # 2 – everyone wants respect. The reality is that everyone wants respect – they just don’t define it in the same way.
  • Truth #3 – trust matters.
  • Truth #4 – everyone wants credible, trustworthy leaders.
  • Truth #5 – office politics is an issue – no matter what your age. Employees know that political skills are a critical.
  • Truth #6 – no one really likes change. Resistance to change has nothing to do with age; it is all about how much one has to gain or lose with the change.
  • Truth #7 – loyalty depends on the context, not on the generation.
  • Truth #8 – it’s as easy to retain a young person as it is to retain an older one – if you do the right things. Employees want room to advance; respect and recognition; better quality of life; and fair compensation.
  • Truth #9 – everyone wants to learn – more than just about anything else. Learning and development were among the issues most frequently mentioned by study participants of all the generations surveyed. Everyone wants to make sure they have the training necessary to do their current job well. They are also interested in what they need to be learning to get to the next level in their organization.
  • And finally Truth #10 – almost everyone wants a coach. Younger people are constantly asking for feedback and can’t get enough of it. According to research, all generations want to know how he or she is doing and wants to learn how to do better to further their careers. However, feedback can come in many forms.

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