Bridging the Generational Gap- Tips on Navigating Age Diversity in the Workplace

By Brandi Nicholson-Burley, Career Facilitator

So far in this “Bridging the Generational Gap,” series, we’ve discussed the changing age makeup in the workplace, and we’ve had a panel discussion about different experiences in a multigenerational workplace. Today, we’ll share 5 key tips on how to navigate age diversity in the workplace.

  1. Understand and embrace different communication styles.

First and foremost, if your employer has a specific and set communication style (i.e all routine project updates via a formal email), adhere to that style. If your employer does not have a set communication style, realize that your coworkers will have different ways they prefer to communicate. This can include styles (Are they analytical?) and channels (Do they prefer emailing instead of face to face?). If you are unsure about your coworkers preferred communication methods- ask! Having a clear understanding of how to communicate with your coworkers, especially in a multigenerational workplace, will mitigate tension and make the day go smoother.

  • Keep an open mind.

Think about what skills varying age groups may possess. Older workers can give further insight on the ins and outs of building a career. Younger workers can encourage change and new opportunities. Realize that diversity (in age and otherwise) sparks innovation, which benefits the overall company. Understand that there are multiple ways to achieve a singular goal.

  • Have empathy.

Having empathy can create a more connected work environment, especially if it is a diverse one. You can develop empathy by asking questions, exploring different environments, and “Taking a walk,” in others’ shoes. Realize that you’re all working towards similar goals within the organization. Take solace in the fact that your coworkers most likely have similar motivations (for example, achieving results, recognition, etc.)

In an article from US News & World Report, Terrence Cahill, Associate Professor of Interprofessional Health Sciences and Health Administration describes a multigenerational office as a family gathering. He states, “If we adopt some of those familial practices within organizations, we’d have increased sensitivity to each other, we’d have increased knowledge and appreciation for each other and we’d begin to work together in ways that we perhaps haven’t been as successful with.”

  • Check your bias.

Even though different generational groups have key defining characteristics, remember that you are working with individuals. If you find yourself thinking, “Millennials don’t know how to send business emails,” or, “Boomers are out of touch,” realize that those thoughts are stereotypes. Thoughts can lead to actions (consciously or subconsciously) and can cause real harm in the workplace. Practice tips 2 & 3 when you find yourself stereotyping your coworkers of different ages. Even better- get to know your coworkers on an individual level! (Business Insider).

  • Make an effort.

As Solange Knowles said, “Do nothing without intention.” What good are the above tips if you don’t put them into practice? Think of the contributions you can provide in order to make navigating your age diverse workplace easier. Can you be a mentor? Can you host organization events? How about creating an, “Open Door,” policy? Or, how about having lunch (virtual or socially distanced) with a coworker you haven’t spent time with before? Taking those small steps can lead to a big reward!

If you need further and individualized help with this topic, and other workforce development topics, don’t hesitate to contact us. You can also find us on our social media channels (Facebook, Instagram, and Twitter ).  Don’t forget to like, comment, and subscribe on our social media in order to keep up to date on what’s happening within Goodwill Columbus Workforce Development. Until next time . . .

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