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Eliminating generational conflicts in the workplace

“No matter what generation you are part of, you don’t know everything.”

Jeff Havens, a generational expert, speaking at a recent Corcentric Symposium, described the current generalizations this way: older people in the workplace believe young people are unconventional and can’t be trusted, while young people think older workers are out of touch, terrified of change and technically incompetent.

Many people have a perception of millennials as lacking loyalty. Havens said the reality is quite different. “Todays’ young people are the loneliest generation because of technology; it is harder than ever for them to make human connections.”

The result is when they do make connections they are more loyal than any other group of similarly aged people at any time since 1963. “The way older people (in the workplace) deal with young people will determine if the loyalty is earned,” Havens explained.

“It is the employer’s job to show that they care about people as individuals,” he added.

Havens offered some tips for helping people from different generations get along.

Young people need to be reminded that older people did not get where they are today overnight. They worked hard for their achievements.

Interestingly, Havens points out that the only thing technology has not made faster is the speed at which we get better at something. He says young people need to understand that advancement is a process not a right and it is earned slowly, over time.

His advice to young people is to figure out what they can learn from the older people who are looking for ways to see their legacy continue. This means they are open to sharing their knowledge with someone who is new to the organization or working their way through the ranks.

Havens also explained that as people age, they slow down when it comes to making changes because they have accumulated more failures and therefore are more cautious.

However, he said, when it comes to new ideas older people need to remember that not every new idea is bad, and conversely young people need to be aware that not all new ideas are good. “It is a constant struggle between what works now and what new ideas are good,” he said.

He cautioned all workers: “No matter what generation you are part of, you don’t know everything.”

Working issues out can get messy, but if a company is going to continue to be successful, everyone needs to be part of the process. “Advancement is a process that never stops,” he concluded.

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