In the current workforce, you can find four, sometimes five, different generations at work in any one organization. Those from differing generations will walk around as customers or new employees and observe different generations working together as an odd thing. But the rumor that people from different generational backgrounds only want to work alongside their generation is just not true. In fact, when done right, multi-generational teams are more productive and have less turnover than teams of the same generational background. As I’ve compiled research, I have found that the difference that some people place between those who were born only 20-30 years before or after them are only myths.
I led training and development efforts for all five generations currently in the job market in my military career. After training over 10,000 military and civilian members, I have seen what it takes to debunk the myths between the generational gaps and bring people together. In the military, it is all about the mission. When the people from varying generations focused on the task or mission at hand, suddenly, differences faded, and like characteristics emerged. Soon, the team was able to see that the myths that widen the gap between them individually were mere assumptions that required clarity and understanding.
Perhaps this is what you are dealing with in your organization. If you have a multi-generational environment, you are likely experiencing people retreating to their echo chambers to repeat misconceptions about someone from a different age demographic that requires a bit of light shed on it. Once we do, we will be able to take steps toward one another, grow together and be the productive team that stays together longer. Here are four common myths between generations that, without clarity, are unfounded misinformation.
Younger Generations are not Career Focused
For some, careers are seen as loyalty with the organization until retirement. Many in older generations think that younger generations should jump right into a career once they have completed their schooling. Once they find what they are good at, the younger generation should remain in that field with the organization they start with until retirement comes. But what is happening is that younger generations are exploring their options, dedicating themselves to causes, and expanding their skillset to impact several fronts.
The challenge here is how careers are focused. Older generations tie career to a trade. Younger generations tie careers to a cause. For younger generations, if the cause takes them inside your organization one moment, then to another the next, the young person is following their career, which is the cause.
Try not to assume that your co-workers are in your organization for the reason you are. If you can come to appreciate the why you’ll start to enjoy them.
Older Generations Don’t like Technology
According to Pew Research, 73% of people over 65 in the U.S. use the internet, up from 14% in 2000. As technology becomes more simplified and user-friendly, older generations are more excited about using it. People must become more understanding and tolerant toward each other. Younger generations have all grown up in the age of technology, which means technology is their way of life. Older generations have a particular way of life that is different. If we are honest, most of us would rather do the thing that we are most comfortable with and accustomed to.
If it makes their lives easier, people in older generations will use Technology. Don’t try to make them do it because everyone else is. Introduce it as a way to enhance life. They will come around!
Younger Generations Only Care about Themselves
This rumor comes from two places in most cases. One we already discussed, which is loyalty to an organization or team. The other is compensation. Younger generations are 4x more likely to expect yearly job advancements than older generations. This seems selfish because older generations accepted what they were offered and “paid their dues.” There is nobility in both. Older generations lean more toward the patient approach, while younger generations are asking to receive what they are worth.
Younger generations rank higher in illusory superiority than older generations. This doesn’t make them selfish; it makes them uninformed and perhaps a bit naive. Who hasn’t been uninformed and naive in life? The responsibility of revealing these blind spots is for the ones who see it. 61% of young people actually desire direct feedback.
Directly tell younger generations that they are doing well, but they have blind spots. Remind them of the compensation package and find unique ways to appreciate them for their contribution.
Older Generations are Cold and Uncaring
Just because your older manager will not allow you to go home early or allow you to telework does not mean they do not care. Older generations are accustomed to spending work time at work and family time at home. Younger generations are about integrating work and family. For older generations, family time is about devoting undivided attention to family, and work is about devoting undivided attention to work.
The older generation was once young too. As they were coming up, they were rejected, attempting to break their own glass ceilings. The older generation must be willing to enter into cross-generational mentorship moments to explain to the younger generation about their approach and the things they have learned as a result. The younger generation will see that it’s not cold and uncaring but actually protective and securing.
There is an old saying –
Misunderstanding is understanding to the one who misunderstood.
Debunking myths about generations is about gaining understanding. Let us all seek to understand to discover the truth about the other.
For more on developing your multi-generational team, visit multigenerationalteams.netlify.app