The inter-generational divide, a catch phrase that simply shouts “separation”. The truth is that Baby Boomers actually have quite a bit in common with Gen X’ers or Echo Boomers, particularly because they gave birth to them and Gen Y probably knew them as siblings.
The Veterans or Traditionalists may be the one group that is left out of the mix. However, there is a simple solution to getting all of the generations on the same page.
I gave a workshop the other day to a bunch of corporate professionals called: How to Look SMART on Paper . It included things relating to English grammar like:
- What is the difference between affect and effect?
- When do you use who or whom?
- What’s the difference between it’s and its?
At some point, we began talking about communication today…what’s happening to it, why is grammar is still important and how has it changed. Swiftly, one Baby Boomer yelled out:
“I hate texting…I think it’s ridiculous and a waste of time. People who text all of the time have nothing better to do…” or something like that.
Participants ranged in age from 20-something to 60-something. All eyes were on me. I thought, hmmm…let’s turn this into a teaching moment.
“Who would like to offer another perspective?” I asked, letting go of knowing where this was going.
A gen Y-er said: “I love texting. I have never had such deep relationships and kept in such close contact with my family and friends. I can’t imagine life without it.”
There you have it: an example of the inter-generational divide.
Did you know that this is the first time in American history that four generations are working together? Yesirreee…Bob. We have Veterans, Baby Boomers, Gen-X-ers and Gen Y engagement, and we’re working together side by side. For goodness sake (ala June Cleaver) we don’t even speak the same language.
So, is this a bad thing? No. Is it a difficult thing? Only if we make it an issue. One solution: initiate. Refuse to make assumptions and jump to conclusions. Simply do the following: Talk. Listen and Ask questions, balancing all three.
You don’t need to be whatever the equivalent to a rocket scientist is today (Ponzi schemer?).
Go back to the basics. If you want to learn about someone, have a conversation. Don’t just read about them in a study, do some field work. Go to networking events, subscribe to blogs and RSS feeds, and open a dialogue.
Here are 12 ideas to help you make new connections among the different generations:
- Teach a class in texting, downloading video, Tweeting, etc.
- Share your ideas for social justice with Baby Boomers (they will love this)
- Don’t text or Tweet in department meetings without everyone’s agreement
- Offer a tutorial in online banking
- Show the older generations how to create a Facebook or a Linked In page & profile (Their grandchildren will hate you for it)
- Speak and go slowly … be patient
- Think about how you bridge generations as an informal or a formal mentor. They are thirsty for knowledge and deeply committed to their professional development
- Serve as a role model and share what you’re passionate about. Millennials want their passions to define them, not their careers
- Ask them about technology and the topics that interest them: pop culture, giving back, work-life balance and can help you
- Share your knowledge by offering to be a mentor or a coach
- Ask them how to Tweet
- If tempted to start a conversation with “I remember when… ” catch yourself and stop. Don’t share your war stories unless asked
Once you get everyone talking together in an intergenerational conversation, you then have the opportunity to take all of the knowledge, energy and ideas from everyone and put them together to create synergy (Cue sound effects: explosion in background).
You can be the CEO, the COD (Chief Organizational Development person, you wish), a Manager or an entry-level clerk, go for it. Start talking. You never know what you may have in common, and you never know what you’ll learn when you respect one another’s differences.
How are you and your organization creating dialogue? I welcome your comments below and I would enjoy hearing from you.
Today’s guest post is written by Michele Simos of of Simos Consulting, Inc. Michele is an organizational development consultant, trainer, and coach who specializes in helping people reach their potential as communicators.
I am happy to welcome Michele’s thoughts and experience as a guest contributor. Please find more insight and thoughts from Michele through her professional biography, web site, or on Twitter @michelesimos