Generations and Teams: Bridging the Generational Gap (Part Two)

As we spoke about in Part One of the series, an “era” is defined as a period of time marked by distinctive character, events, etc…  I believe right now we are ushering in a unique and challenging era in corporate America.  For the first time in history, employers are struggling to balance the different needs and working styles of four different generations in the workforce.  What challenges are leaders faced with and what are some ways to successfully “bridge the generational gap” and build a great team?

Let’s begin by exploring the eldest generation represented in the workplace, the Traditionalists.  As we learned last month, Traditionalists were born before 1946(before World War II) and are also called the Silent Generation).  Some basic characteristics are:

  • Typically punctual
  • Sharply dressed and often conservative
  • Believe that hard work has its own reward.
  • More comfortable in a command-and-control structured hierarchy.

Traditionalists value hard work, sacrifice, loyalty and a respect for authority.

How do the members of this generation typically operate in a work environment? They have a strong work ethic and will not hesitate to sacrifice to get the job done.  Their style of communication is typically formal and sober and will tend to write notes rather than send email messages.  They also struggle with technology and many times see it as a necessary nuisance.

How other generations might interact successfully with Traditionalists:

  1. Baby Boomers believe in collective decision-making while Traditionalists believe in a more unilateral decision-making model.  It behooves the Baby Boomer to demonstrate the value and power of collaborative thinking while respecting the Traditionalists paradigm.
  2. Generation Xers do not like to be micromanaged while Traditionalists are accustomed to that model.  Gen Xers must communicate fluidly and openly about outcomes.  The more they communicate successes, the less the Traditionalists will want to know how you achieved them.
  3. Generation Yers (Millennials) are comfortable in a remote, highly technological, team oriented environment while Traditionalist are used to more traditional approaches to work.  Millennials will need to be patient with Traditionalists when it comes to the use of technology and as often as possible connect with them either on the phone or face-to-face.

Next month we will explore the Baby Boomers and how their characteristics and values impact the work environment.  Stay tuned…