Susan Steinbrecher, CEO and President of Steinbrecher And Associates, contributed this article to BusinessNewsDaily's Expert Voices: Op-Ed & Insights.
This is the first time in history that four generational cohorts have had to work side by side in the same workplace. To be successful, today's leaders must harness the ability to manage a highly diverse workforce of associates, ideally by embracing and concurrently developing their distinct experience, training and work ethics that each generation brings to the table.
In my opinion, the most beneficial impact to any organization or company is the diversity of thought and creativity that a multi-generational workplace can offer. However, it may also cause conflict as it presents a challenge to manage the varying opinions, beliefs and value systems.
There are many actions leaders can take to seamlessly meld the generational differences without causing friction in the workplace.
- Encourage understanding. All generational cohorts need to work on coming to understand their differences and stop scrutinizing through the lens of judgment. Be open to the gifts that each generation brings. It's not about age — it's about embracing and valuing the differences.
- Educate to develop empathy. Leaders and managers should organize meetings and learning sessions to educate employees about each generation in order to develop a deeper understanding and empathy for each other. I truly believe it is possible to develop your empathic ability. It requires correcting certain habits of mind, like taking sides in a conflict and replacing these negative behaviors with healthier actions, such as weighing the perspective of both sides. It requires accepting responsibility for your own predispositions, examining stereotypes, snap judgments and biases.
- Foster open communication. Open dialogues are imperative, in order to identify varying belief systems. They can co-create solutions and strategies and ultimately bridge the gap of judgment and help people begin to understand and appreciate each other.
Challenges arise with every new decade when another generation enters the workforce. My advice is: Be aware of how the human element shows up at work. Remember that at the end of the day we are all human beings and have the same basic needs. Leaders and managers must remain committed to cultivating practices that foster a more connected workplace.
Finally, the best piece of advice I can offer on this subject is this: Don't judge or assume — come to understand.
The views expressed are those of the author and do not necessarily reflect the views of the publisher.