Bridging the Widening Generational Gap

 For the first time in US history, four generations now work in the same offices. As older employees delay retirement and companies hire the newly graduated Millennials (aka Generation Y), the generational gaps are widening.Below are some common accusations that older worker’s make regarding the youngest generation in the office. The responses that follow provide a Millennial perspective.

1)      Lack of commitment: Divorce peaked in the 1980s and a large number of Millennials’ parents divorced during their childhood. Plus many of our parents were laid off, sometimes multiple times in a short period. For these reasons, most Millennials don’t know what commitment really looks like. We’ve never seen it!

2)      No separation of personal and professional life: The idea of having work/life balance is a goal for former generations. Today’s young professionals are living via 24/7 work/life integration where everything is on one platform – our smartphone. Our devices are all interconnected with everything, personal and professional, at our fingertips. If we check our work email all weekend long, why do you care if we check Facebook a couple times a day at the office?

3)      Driving change just for change’s sake: By the time we were born, cassettes were the primary way to listen to our favorite music. By age 10, I turned over my cassettes for CDs. Before I went to college, I asked for an iPod for Christmas.  Since the Millennials were forced to change with the times (as boom boxes became smaller and smaller), we have realized it’s imperative to keep up with new technology, or we fear we’ll get left behind. Which is why we’re constantly reminding older managers, “there’s an app for that now!”

Bottom line: As the gaps continue to expand, organizations cannot afford to provide leadership or diversity training without addressing generational differences within the office. Education and awareness is essential to reducing frustration among coworkers and decreasing turnover among Millennials, of which 70% leave jobs within two years. Companies who bridge these gaps see improvements in the productivity of multi-generational teams, and are able to capitalize on the strengths each generation brings to the organization to achieve greater success.

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