How to Manage Generational Clash in the Workplace

Monday, March 1, 2010

You’re on vacation in the Bahamas and your colleague e-mails you a question about the report she is scheduled to present to the board later that day. With your Blackberry close at hand, you quickly answer her message and get back to your hot rock massage.

Monday morning, you return to the office sun-kissed and ready for a 10 a.m. meeting. During the meeting, your boss volunteers your time to stay late every night that week to prepare an important proposal. When you protest, your boss, a veteran at the company, questions your work ethic.

Research has identified four distinct generations of employees in the workplace. Each generation brings their own set of attitudes and behaviors; managing expectations is a challenge for employers.  However, if employers ignore differences between generations, there can be an adverse impact on staff motivation, engagement and retention according to management expert Claire Simmers, Ph.D.

Simmers, chair and professor of management at Saint Joseph’s University, was recently invited by the Greater Philadelphia Chamber of Commerce to present her advice on how to bridge generational gaps in the workplace.

1. Focus on outcomes: Keep in mind there are polymorphic ways to achieve outcomes. While wearing flip-flops in 30-degree weather isn’t exactly your cup of tea, the behavior is not linked to poor performance. 2. Embrace differences: Be tolerant of differences while looking for common ground. 3. Work together: Multigenerational viewpoints enrich the workplace, so organizations should use this as a strength. 4. Be flexible: The employment contract of the 21st century is different from when Baby Boomers first entered the workforce. The relationship is more fluid for both employer and employee — younger employees may be more mobile and appear less loyal, but the same is true of most organizations. 5. Respect each other: While there is a collectivity of “generations,” it’s important not to make assumptions of individuals based on age. Not every boomer is ignorant of technology and not every Generation Y’er is lazy and uncommitted.

Contact Information

Simmers, co-author of The Internet and Workplace Transformation, can be reached for comment at simmers@sju.edu or 610-660-1106 or by contacting University Communications at 610-660-1355



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