Business Strategy | Leadership / Management | Organizational Development

Want to solve your generational issues? Talk to each other

So there we were, getting ready to wrap up the MACPA's fantastic 2013 Generational Symposium, when Tom Hood said something that stunned me in its simplicity.

I'm paraphrasing here, but it came down to this:

Everyone is talking about the generational issues that are impacting the workforce, but they're talking in silos. The boomers complain to each other about the millennials. The millennials complain to each other about the boomers. The Xers complain to each other about … well, everyone.

And none of those generations are talking to the others.

It's like American politics. Democrats rip Republicans, Republicans rip Democrats, and nobody works together on anything. Then we all sit around complaining that nothing gets done.

The amazing thing is, we know what needs to be done. Step 1 is realizing that we're not going to solve any problems that way. Step 2 is to break down those silos and actually start a conversation with one another side.

That's what made the MACPA's symposium so refreshing. There in the same room sat millennials, Xers, boomers and matures. They all spoke freely and put forth some really eye-opening insights.

Like these:

  • Generational friction is a result of a lack of understanding and consideration -- on all sides.
  • Let's stop putting the generations into buckets. Conversation among the generations brings perspective on how we can work together.
  • Attention, millennials: You can't connect the dots on your career path at the beginning. You can only do that with experience. Start working, add value, do your best, then look for the doors that open for you along the way.
  • Attention, everyone else: Millennials aren't selfish, uncaring job-hoppers. They just don't look at a job as a career until it helps them make a difference. Research shows most millennials would prefer not to job-hop. They're just looking for a job that provides meaningful work and the right schedule.
  • There's often not enough emphasis on the "life" in "work / life balance." You have to attend life, too.
  • New ways of working -- texting, social media, wearing earbuds in the office -- are management issues. If the work is getting done and the outcomes are great, who cares how we got to that point?
  • What happens when generations define "success" differently? How do the conflicting definitions of success affect how we motivate, coach and encourage one another?

Here's what gets me: A lot of these insights focus on communication. If we could just talk to one another and understand where the other side is coming from, we could do great things.

That's exactly what happened at the MACPA's symposium. How does the old Chinese proverb go? "A journey of a thousand miles begins with a single step." We took that step at Turf Valley. Now we need to take the next step … and the next.

Here's the cool thing about the symposium: We took those steps, too. Tomorrow we'll take a closer look at some of the specific steps the groups thinks we should take to ease the generational tension in the profession.

In the meantime, check out Adrienne Gonzalez's recap of the symposium on Going Concern. It's all about communication over there, too.

What do you think? How can we best ease the generational tension in the workplace?

While you're thinking, here are a few other resources from the symposium:


Bill Sheridan