Five Tips for Successfully Navigating a Cross-Generational Workspace

Mary Bleech headshot

Mary Bleech

July 28, 2022
Thanks to advancements in modern medicine and technology, the life expectancy of Americans continues to grow. And with that growth comes the necessity – or simply the desire – to extend one’s retirement age. In fact, according to a 2018 Gallup poll, 41% of adults have no plans to retire until they are 66 or older. This change, of course, doesn’t affect the entrance of young adults into the workforce, creating more diverse cross-generational workspaces than ever before. 

Such wide age gaps within a work environment are likely to create challenges through differing attitudes, behaviors, and opinions. But what if you could overcome those challenges and highlight the benefits of this work dynamic? Through these five tips, your team will see greater success in your daily workspace.
1. Hear employees out

As a team leader, it’s important to understand the various needs of your team members. Each working generation will likely have different perspectives regarding work goals, motivations, and methods of production. Taking the time to communicate with employees and find out how to best help succeed in their workspace will make the environment all around more enjoyable.
Person holding coffee
2. Understand that people come from different walks of life 

Of course, this point goes for people who are the same age as well, but recognizing that employees have grown up in different decades where the standard norms and traditions may not match those their coworkers were exposed to is helpful in gaining insight on what drives each employee’s work behaviors. Beware, though, because it’s a fine line – you don’t want to make assumptions about employees according to age stereotypes, either. For example, this article from Culture Amp warns that younger generations may be accused of lacking in communication skills based on their more frequent use of technology while older generations might be considered more stubborn by younger workers. Instead, be mindful that these presumptions are not circulating in your workspace by setting the tone for aiming to understand each person better than the day before.
Person meditating

3. Create mentoring relationships

As your older team members will likely have more work (and life) experience, use this unique cross-generational dynamic to create mentor-mentee relationships. Consider the goals and interests of your younger employees and try to pair them with an older member who might be able to offer insight and connections for achievement. And don’t forget that mentorship can work in both directions! Your younger employees may have certifications and skills that would create efficiencies for the older team members, as well.
4. Connect on topics outside of work 

Especially in a cross-generational work environment, taking intentional time to learn about coworkers outside of their work habits creates a healthier and more welcoming environment for all. At ChattyKathi, we thrive to ensure we can offer safe virtual spaces for teams where everyone can freely engage. A quick
signup allows your team the opportunity to create user profiles which customize all of their interests – and ensures that you’ll learn something new about colleagues every week!

5. Be clear in the expectations of your work environment 

Lastly, be sure to provide clear expectations of the environment you aim to cultivate. This hones in on previous points where different generations may perceive anticipated work cultures differently, so it’s the job of the leader to provide clear guidelines of how the workspace can best thrive. Remember to take in the feedback of your team and make changes as necessary. The goal is to create both a maximally efficient and welcoming work environment. Above all else, remember – navigating differences between team members can be difficult at times but, when done successfully, the reward of a diverse, open team far outweighs the cost.

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