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Managing Diversity Challenges in a Multigenerational Office

Veleisa Burrell

02/21/2020

Boomer, Gen X, Millennial and Gen Z

Today’s workforce is a multigenerational mix. This leads to a blend of attitudes and cultures which, in turn, requires leaders who are capable of managing diversity.

As the American population ages and those in the Boomer generation stay in the workforce more years, the youngest generation - Gen Z - are steadily entering their first post-collegiate professional job. In just five years, the four generations - Boomer, Generation X, Millennial and Gen Z - will comprise 99.3 percent of the workforce.

Shifting expectations of the workplace as well as norms and modes of communication creating an environment that can either breed a robust culture or create an HR nightmare as the generational interaction creates a melting pot of experiences and personalities. Being aware of how diversity can impact interpersonal relationships in a multigenerational office is key to building a sustainable workplace environment.

Let go of assumptions & embrace learning

While assumptions take the guesswork out of life, they can get us into trouble in some situations. Assumptions about how a person will behave based on their age are just as damaging as basing them on race or gender. Not all older workers are intimidated by technology, and younger workers are capable of picking up the phone to call or mailing a letter. If your team is unsure how learned a coworker is about a specific tool or task, simply asking can remove any doubts about a person’s ability.

For younger employees who thrive in technology or older employees who have gained years of outreach experience based on cold calling and in-person appointments, this can present a teaching opportunity that doesn’t offend others and allows the person to be seen as a subject matter expert. Not assuming applies to leadership as well; blend your approach and see what works for the individual, not the demographic.

Start training early in career

Gen Z is one of the most racially diverse yet - 25 percent Hispanic/Latino, 14 percent Black and 4 percent Asian. Because of this, Gen Z is less likely to have grown up in or attended school in a monoracial environment. However, this doesn’t necessarily translate to being fully aware of how to engage in professional settings. All generations can benefit from ongoing progressive-leaning training on communication and diversity to avoid issues related to microaggressions and other conflicts.

Mentoring up and down the age ladder

Often mentoring is portrayed as a sensei-grasshopper relationship - an older teacher and younger student- but building relationships with those older and younger in the workplace tends to strengthen skills and solidify relationships. Whether a formal or informal setup, companies should encourage employees at all points of their career to foster relationships with coworkers whose experiences don’t look like theirs. Established workers have the opportunity to learn about the latest digital tools that can make their work more efficient and those just starting out can learn about the tried-and-true rules of the industry from those who have lived the history.

If your company has managed diversity in a multigenerational office, and you want to share the story to help others improve their workplace, get on Kanarys. Create an account or log in to share the experience and then tell a friend about Kanarys.

Contact Kanarys for more information.

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