Bridging the Generation Gap
Every morning in our daily huddle, our entire office gathers to update one another about schedule changes, workloads and deadlines. From the youngest to the oldest, there’s a gap of 30 years, and the differences among the three generations represented are very apparent. I’m a Boomer and I hit the office door (when I’m not traveling) by 8:00 a.m.–coffee in hand and excited to get to work. My Gen Xers roll in a little later and like to be “left alone” in the morning to focus on their projects and emails. Our Millenials come in with either an MP3 player or a cellphone attached to their ears and seem much less comfortable during the face-to-face huddle than the rest of us.
It would be pretty easy as I scan the circle to assume that Boomers like me are the only ones who possess a really strong work ethic. By then my coffee is kicking in and my head is humming with half-formulated ideas. The 30-something to my right is staring intently off into space…if I didn’t know better I might assume he doesn’t care. The 20-something has one earbud still in and I can hear rap coming from the other earbud dangling over her shoulder. If I didn’t know better I might assume she doesn’t care.
But I do know better. I know that Gen Xers often prefer to work alone and are great problem solvers. I know that he’s listening to the meeting, but probably also working on the next great web strategy. I know that Millenials love to absorb, process and synthesize data of all kinds. They can listen to music, participate in a meeting and respond to IMs simultaneously.
When we’re born and the prevailing societal influences of that time shape us more than our gender, educational background, race and socio-economic class. Men who are 18-34 shop more like women their own age than like older men. Recent child-rearing studies are showing that one’s peer group plays a much larger role in shaping the values and behaviors than do parents.
Our values, morals and ethics differ depending on whether our parents were “depression babies,” who celebrated a golden anniversary, we were “latch-key kids” with divorced parents or we grew up with full, half and/or step siblings parented by day-care facilities.
We work hard to bridge the generation gaps in our office and the efforts pay off. Whether it’s being willing to listen to rap (some of it’s pretty good!), share stories about what it was like when I was a kid and dinosaurs roamed the earth, or encourage our loner Xers to park the individualism in lieu of collaboration occasionally, we actively express our appreciation of each others differences.