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3 Tips for Managing the 5 Generations in the Workplace

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Chris Bibey

It sounds crazy at first, but many of today’s businesses include employees from five different generations.

A young woman and an older woman working at a greenhouse and looking at a tablet.

As a small business owner, managing multiple generations is easier said than done. Individuals of each generation are unique in many ways, including:

  • Communication style
  • Expectations
  • Short and long term goals
  • Perspectives

Before we provide guidance on how to manage the five generations in the workplace, let’s outline each one:

  • Generation Z (1997–2012)
  • Millennials (1981–1996)
  • Generation X (1965–1980)
  • Baby boomers (1946–1964)
  • Silent generation (born between 1928 and 1945)

Take a look at that for a second. You could have a 21-year-old recent college graduate working alongside an employee from the silent generation.

How will you deal with the generational gap in the workplace? What issues can you expect? What steps can you take to bring every employee – regardless of generation – together to work toward common goals?

Here are three tips to follow:

1. Get to Know Each Generation

Don’t make the mistake of ignoring the generational gap in the workplace. Instead, embrace the uniqueness of each generation by getting to know your employees.

For example, Generation Z relies heavily on technology and they have a strong interest in social responsibility. They can help your small business have a strong online presence, including social media, and can think of ways that your business can give back to the community, or become more environmentally friendly.

Baby Boomers, on the other hand, got their start in the workplace before the days of the internet, so they may have different views on technology and communication. They may help you structure internal meetings or provide tips on great employee communication.

It takes some time to understand the inner workings of each generation, but it’s a necessary step in bringing your workforce together.

2. Create Mentorship Opportunities

Rather than group young workers with young workers and seasoned workers with seasoned workers, create mentorship opportunities. Here are some of the benefits:

  • Bring together a combination of skills to ensure top-notch results
  • Younger workers can learn the value of organization and face-to-face communication
  • Older workers can learn about technology and social media

While mentorships usually involve a seasoned employee offering advice to a newer employee, don’t be afraid to consider reverse mentoring. Using the example above, Gen Z is very tech-focused and have always lived in a world with smartphones, the internet, and social media, while Baby Boomers may not be as comfortable with some of those aspects. A reverse mentoring opportunity would be great in this scenario so your Gen Z employees can educate Baby Boomers on various technology trends.

Some mentorship opportunities happen naturally, while others require a nudge. Don’t be shy about creating these opportunities where you see fit.

3. Create a Conflict Resolution Strategy

Conflict in the workplace is inevitable. It’s how you deal with it that determines what happens next.

With multiple generations working side-by-side, you should expect conflicts to arise from differing personalities and work styles. 

As a leader, it’s your responsibility to proactively deal with conflict. Your process can include but doesn’t have to be limited to:

  • Allow both individuals to raise their issues
  • Ensure that both individuals have the opportunity to share their perspective and potential solutions
  • Provide a comfortable atmosphere for talking through the conflict

When conflicts are resolved in an efficient manner, it’s easier for both individuals to put the incident in the past without any hard feelings.

Final Thoughts

Even if you try to ignore it, there’s no escaping the generational gap in the workplace. From the way your employees work to the benefits they are seeking, generational changes are bound to change the way your small business operates.

With these three tips guiding you, it’s easier to manage multiple generations in a fair and effective manner, which will have a positive impact on your company now and in the future.

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