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3 ways to build relationships across generations in the workforce

In today’s workforce, Millennials have surpassed Generation X’ers with 56 million individuals working or looking for work as compared to 53 million. Together, Millennials and Gen X’ers make up over two thirds of the total workforce, proving that the two groups will most likely come across one another at some point in time. Often pitted against each other in the media, the relationship between each group has unfortunately been portrayed as less than harmonious. Millennials have been commonly accused of killing multiple industries while Generation X’ers have been called out for their financial situation issues. While these generations may have their share of differences, they both offer unique perspectives that are mutually beneficial within the workforce. So, how can these two generations, or all generations for that matter, work together to benefit themselves and their organizations? Believe it or not, working within a multi-generational workforce is easier than you would think. Here are some ways to foster beneficial relationships across generations within a workplace.

View differences as learning opportunities.

There are many stereotypes that have come to define both Generation X and Millennial workers. While these generalizations are not always true, individuals with different ages and experiences do bring a variety of diverse strategies to a workplace. Instead of being judgmental towards others way of work, use these generational differences constructively by taking the time to listen and learn from others experiences and processes. While not every strategy will work for you, it may help you learn some new ideas that can make your work even better. Think to yourself, how can I apply this to my own strategies? Am I being open minded to others?

One great example of these differences in generations are the way we view where we work. While some generations may tend to veer towards a more traditional 9-5 style office workplace, Millennials tend to have a higher flexibility and approach to where they work (working from home, outside of the office, etc). Some individuals may resist this traditionally Millennial trend and jump to unfair conclusions about them (they are entitled or lazy) because of this approach. Instead, other generations could perhaps consider the potential of rethinking the ways they structure work and examine possible opportunities for all with this new way of work.

Encourage mutual mentorships between generations.

Mentoring has long been known, throughout a variety of fields and organizations, to be a helpful tool for productivity, personal development and growth. This is especially true for working between generations, with ample knowledge to be gained from multi-generational mentorships in the workplace. Instead of a traditional approach of the mentor as the individual with all the knowledge and as the mentee as the one who needs to learn, encourage a more mutual learning environment between individuals from different generations. Both parties should feel that they can learn from one another’s life experiences which can aid in further personal and professional growth. In this way, both parties get the best of each generation and learn a wider set of skills from one another.

Remember that everyone wants and deserves respect.

At the end of the day, every person wants to be listened to and respected within their workplace. In order to be respectful towards others, it’s important to practice active listening when learning about new ideas or ways of work. This way, people will feel heard and respected. As US News points out keeping your head up and at attention, being patient and avoiding interruptions, and showing sincere interest by asking specific questions can all help you become a more effective listener and communicator. Practicing active listening is a great way to help cultivate respect between generations in the workplace.

Ultimately, working within a multi-generational workforce is beneficial to both organization’s and the individuals within them. Learning from others’ diverse experiences allows for an unlimited potential of productivity, growth, and positive change for all.

Learn more about how to further develop your work environment by checking out resources and training provided by MCS Chicago.

Contributing Writer: Brittany A. Hamilton

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