The rise of Millennials in the workplace — they now make up over a third of the workforce — has led to more generations working together than ever before. Baby Boomers, Generation X, Millennials, Generation Z: they all bring unique perspectives and experiences to today’s professional environment. This diversity of generations can also create a lack of understanding or a tendency towards bias, however unintentional.
After noticing teasing and jokes about older generations in the workplace, a member of the Everwise community asked for advice. Read on for tips from Everwise mentors on creating a more inclusive environment at work that supports all generations.
Focus on what you can do differently
Start combating bias against older generations by focusing on what you can most directly control: yourself. Michael O’Sullivan recommends you look inwards: “It’s easy to hide behind the word ‘we.’ Ask yourself, what can you do better?”
You can’t help others adjust their attitudes, O’Sullivan says, until you ensure that your own attitude is open, non-judgemental, and friendly. From there, you can lead others by the example you set.
Welcome diversity of perspective
Next, remember to welcome the perspectives of others. Doing so is an opportunity to broaden your own. Bryana G advises: “Always be curious. Everyone has something they can bring – to teach and to learn from.”
Lorraine G adds: “Embrace diversity of thought, ideas, experience, tenure, professional background with a curious mind, regardless of the age, culture, religion, etc. of your co-workers. It opens the door for equality in the workplace and takes away the barriers created when you pre-judge based on those aspects, allowing for greatness to happen.”
By valuing “what everyone brings to the table,” Rachel Ougier Simonin says, you’ll contribute to creating an inclusive environment — and learn from others in the process.
Default to respect, always
Jokes and banter can feel like a good way to connect with others in the workplace. They can also (and often) miss the mark, making others feel put down or dismissed.
Elissa B suggests you avoid starting with jokes entirely: “Treat each other with respect instead. Use coworkers as a trusted resource instead of using them as comic relief.” Simonin also proposes avoiding assumptions when opening conversations: “Base your approach on facts, not opinions.”
Doing so makes co-workers feel valued and respected. In fact, you’ll always create a stronger connection with co-workers of any age if you default to respect in your conversations.
Look to your similarities
“Why do we need to consider the different generations in the workplace at all?” Anton Pemmer asks. Pemmer advocates for shifting your mental approach away from your differences to toward your similarities.
“Remember that the veteran and the newbie each have something to offer one another and the company,” Pemmer says. “With a team of people that range from 20 to 70 years old, find the common ground — e.g. the company and how to grow it. Understanding where each person sits within the company and how they can contribute is the key.”
Find your common ground, whether that’s the project you’re working on or the skills you share or your common values. Doing so will set the stage for a productive working relationship, rather than a combative or dismissive one.
In summary, to create an inclusive work environment across generations:
- Focus on your own actions
- Be open to different perspectives
- Always default to respect
- Focus on your team’s common ground