3 Tips for navigating a multigenerational workplace

Navigating a multigenerational workplace in this day and age is nothing new. There can be as many as 3–5 different generations within the same division. Hierarchy used to be primarily based on age, but not anymore.

Working in such an environment is often daunting, but it doesn’t have to be. A person must understand where the tension comes from and acknowledge the benefits of age diversity at the same time. The key to navigating a multigenerational workplace is bridging generational gaps based on that knowledge. Here are three tips for working successfully with a multigenerational team.

Conflicting notions of work and productivity

A multigenerational team is bound to have clashing ideas that get in the way of work. This is because each generation has its own expectations and beliefs. Distinct perspectives coming from varied backgrounds may be incompatible with each other, especially with how people view and value work.

A relevant example is how Millennials’ frequent job-hopping is construed as disloyal flightiness. Generation X can perceive it as an act of entitlement or lack of foresight. However, for Millennials, it makes sense to leave an unfulfilling job to find something more suited to their career goals and development. They would rather resign than stay at a company that doesn’t value their contribution. These conflicting perceptions of work create tension and preconceived notions in the workplace that widens the generational gap.

Productivity is also measured differently, with time and outputs as the main factors. Older generations value time, whereas younger generations focus more on the output. When Generation Z efficiently accomplish tasks in a short period, Boomers may assume they didn’t work hard because they didn’t exert much time on the task.

Consider: Letting go of stereotypes.

You can’t guess someone’s strengths and weaknesses by looking at them. Older generations aren’t always technologically-challenged. Younger generations can have more experience in the industry. Challenge your own assumptions because you can be wrong.

Four women working in a business meeting in a cafe coffee shop

Diversity in perspectives and experiences

Diversity in viewpoints allows a team to assess their work from different angles, providing original strategies and effective solutions that might not have been possible with a more homogenous group. This is where the resistance to “go with the flow” becomes advantageous, since different generations assert their points of view. It’s also beneficial for businesses because different generations make up the market too. 

The most important benefit of consciously navigating a multigenerational workplace is the opportunity to learn from everyone else. Although it’s easy to discredit other people, wisdom comes from all places, so respecting generational differences may cultivate professional growth. Being open to change makes an employee more adaptable in complementing their teammates’ strengths and weaknesses.

However, this calls for a responsible leader that encourages and values input from everyone. If not led with impartiality, a multigenerational team’s competitiveness is detrimental to overall productivity.

Consider: Saying what you mean.

Effective communication is paramount in any kind of group. It is important to provide context with your instructions and requests. By minimizing ambiguity, your point will come across more clearly.

Two men talking at computer

Bridging the generational gaps

There are plenty of ways to flourish while navigating a multigenerational workplace, but only if team members are open to working together. Those in leadership positions have the most influence in the workplace, especially with contrasting ideas. It’s not about picking sides. Rather, it’s about combining strategies and possibilities to accommodate the different perspectives and better serve the company.

Refusal to acknowledge existing generational gaps will only lead to misunderstandings. Break through the communication barriers by being adaptable in a challenging environment.

Consider: Being flexible and accommodating.

Respectful teammates recognize the difference between everyone’s wants and needs. Recognize your teammates’ preferences and tailor your approaches. Don’t rigidly stick to your own.

A workplace that uses generational diversity and inclusion to its advantage will be fruitful. Conflicts may arise, but treat diversity as an asset rather than a drawback. Building a network of people different from you will help you develop, so don’t dwell on the stark differences. In the end, it all boils down to genuinely getting acquainted with your teammates, regardless of age or experience.