Managing Generational Differences in the Workplace

In our February 2024 X-Factor Solutions newsletter, we mentioned a recent workshop that we facilitated for a client in higher education. In that reference, we discussed how fostering a collaborative and successful workplace across generations involves recognizing and valuing the unique strengths, preferences, and aspirations of each group.

Like many other industries, Higher Education employs a multigenerational workforce and also serves a multigenerational customer base (in their case, students). In addition to hiring strong talent to serve the customer base, higher learning institutions must focus on retaining current employees for customer service continuity. Maintaining a multigenerational workforce may be frustrating when trying to navigate the many different work styles and perspectives.

However, despite what many may believe, the differences between various generations’ management preferences, work approaches, and learning styles are valuable, especially when you can identify a common goal.

While generational differences in the workplace present some challenges, they also set the stage for enormous opportunities. We MUST embrace this diversity to create a vibrant, inclusive, and productive work environment.

Embracing Generational Differences

It starts with a positive disposition to the challenge. Embracing a growth mindset requires that we envision a multigenerational workforce that recognizes and celebrates our differences while leveraging the commonalities we share. A purposeful approach to the development of an organizational culture that celebrates rather than laments generational differences in the workplace moves beyond the commonly held stereotypes of Baby Boomers, Gen X, Y, or Z and taps into the positive methodologies that each brings to problem-solving, work-life balance, work-ethic, mental health, and other workplace topics.

A workplace comprised of a multigenerational workforce excels when we are committed to nurturing a collaborative and shared value system based on each generation’s unique strengths, preferences, and aspirations, not just pointing out perceived shortcomings.

Employees must consistently self-reflect to determine their own biases and perceptions of employees who fall into other generational categories. Then, they must ask themselves if their perception of other employees is actually just a self-fulfilling prophecy… because if you think of Gen X/Y/Z this way (whatever that may be), you create a mental narrative that only allows you to see that characteristic (positive or negative). This is not only true in how you see others but also in how you see yourself!

This video is a few years old but still does a masterful job of helping us think about how we are creating false narratives about workplace generations that we then use as “factual” guidelines: How generational stereotypes hold us back at work.

Photo by Andrea Piacquadio