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Business Officer Magazine

Yes, We Can Get Along

“To know me is to love me.” Perhaps if those words were posted in workspaces and conference rooms across campus, it would remind Traditionalists, Baby Boomers, Generation Xers, and Millennials that the generations can genuinely like each other and respect the differences that make today's workplace so dynamic. In their featured session, “Bridging the Generations,” BridgeWorks partners Lynne Lancaster (a Boomer), David Stillman (an Xer), and Debra Fiterman (a Millennial) brought real-life drama to differences that are the stuff of everyday misconceptions.

Take collaboration. Just when Boomer managers got accustomed to the workstyle preference of many self-reliant Xers to take an idea and run with it, here came the Millennials seeking feedback every five minutes. And what's wrong with that? Millennials don't want to waste their time or yours heading down the wrong path, so better to check in at each stage, right? And while Xers may roll their eyes at hierarchy for the sake of hierarchy, Millennials don't have an immediate problem with authority as long as someone explains who's in charge and why and can they still come to the meeting?

In all seriousness, Millennials have an important lesson to share with their workplace predecessors about the value of a bit more talking. According to BridgeWorks' research:

  • Forty percent of Traditionalists say their company does a poor job of making them want to stay, and 50 percent say they never received feedback skills training.
  • Forty-three percent of Boomers say they lack opportunities to be mentored at work, and 30 percent say not having a mentor contributes to job dissatisfaction.
  • Thirty percent of Xers say they receive their phone bill more often than they get relevant feedback, and that same percentage of Xers have left a job due to lack of training opportunities.

How each generation uses technology, prefers to communicate, and responds to an organizational chart speaks volumes about whether they grew up under the influence of the Great Depression and the GI Bill, Vietnam and Rock 'n' Roll, MTV and AIDS, or Facebook and the fall of the Berlin Wall. Yet, overcoming those differences is possible, say BridgeWorks partners. Step one: Understand the events and traits that have shaped the mind-sets of those outside your own age group. Step two: Get to know what makes someone else tick-not only as “a generation” but also as an individual with uniquely personal experiences and ideas who can enrich your workplace.

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