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Generational Divide: 5 Ways to Work Alongside Younger Peers

Generational Divide: 5 Ways to Work Alongside Younger Peers
Credit: Aletia/Shutterstock

This is a popular time of year to be handing out advice. Whether it's high school seniors who are headed off to college or college graduates who are entering the workforce for the first time, it seems as though everyone has some grand advice to share on how to be successful.

While that guidance can be valuable, millennials aren't the only generation that could use some wisdom this time of year. Now is the perfect time to give the office veterans a refresher on how best to co-exist with their new, younger peers, many of whom are stepping into their first real job.

While you might be quick to discount younger workers, there is a good chance they have a lot to offer your organization. Older workers who turn their backs on new, younger employees are missing out on opportunities to help mold a successful new peer and guide their organization into the next generation.

Here are five tips on how office veterans can welcome and successfully work alongside their company's newest and youngest employees:

  • Don't treat them like kids. Even though they are young and recently removed from college, that doesn't give you a free pass to treat them like children. If you want them to produce professional work, you need to treat them like professionals. Don't tell them how they remind you of your son or daughter, and don't lecture them on how things were done when you were their age. It is belittling and shows that you don't really respect them. While there might be an age gap, you shouldn't be focused on it. In order for a company to get the most out of younger workers, they need to be treated like everyone else and not like children.
  • Don't watch over their every move. Even though they are new to your office and maybe even your industry, that doesn't mean you need to watch every move your younger co-workers make. It is important that they learn to do things on their own, without you holding their hand every step of the way. How will they learn how to get their assignments completed on their own if you are constantly scrutinizing everything they do? They need room to breathe. Will that lead to mistakes?  Of course. All new employees are going to mess up every now and then. The question is, how do they respond to it? Their ability to learn from their errors will help show everyone in the organization how valuable they might be in the future.
  • Let their bosses handle the discipline. Even though you may be much older than your new, younger co-workers, it's important to remember that you're all peers. Since you have many more years of experience, you might feel like it is your place to tell your millennial co-workers what they're doing wrong, or how their behavior isn't up to par. But it really isn't. Leave those discussions to their boss. If you have problems with how a younger co-worker is handling an assignment or acting around the office, bring those concerns to his or her supervisor, rather than trying to handle it on your own. In the end, you aren't their boss, and if you're the one trying to discipline them, there's a good chance they won't be receptive to the criticism. You'll only end up with a reputation of being grouchy, disagreeable and out-of-touch. Your concerns will be taken much more seriously if the person who is in charge of the younger co-worker's reviews and compensation is raising these concerns.
  • Listen to their ideas. One of the greatest assets millennial co-workers offer is their vision. They bring a fresh perspective, and it shouldn't be discounted just because they aren't industry veterans. Rather than shooting down their ideas because they may be different than what you've always done, encourage them to express themselves. If you always disregard their input, eventually, they will either stop sharing it or move on to an employer that wants to hear what they have to offer. Of course, all of their ideas won't be good ones, but there's a good chance that every now and then, one of them could be a home run. Mixing in that fresh perspective will only benefit your company in the long run.
  • Get to know them. It is important to spend some time trying to get to know your new, younger co-workers. Even though you might not have much in common, if you don't try to learn anything about what they do outside of work, it's bound to eventually create a divide in the office. There is no way your business can thrive if there is a division between the younger and older workers. Ask them to lunch or for a drink after work. Listening to them talk about their family and friends or what they like to do when they aren't working will definitely show them that you value them as co-workers. You don't have to be their best friend, but if you can connect on a personal level, it can only boost the office environment and culture.

Originally published on Business News Daily

Chad Brooks

Chad Brooks is a Chicago-based writer and editor with nearly 20 years in media. A 1998 journalism graduate of Indiana University, Chad began his career with Business News Daily in 2011 as a freelance writer. In 2014, he joined the staff full time as a senior writer. Before Business News Daily, Chad spent nearly a decade as a staff reporter for the Daily Herald in suburban Chicago, covering a wide array of topics including local and state government, crime, the legal system and education. Chad has also worked on the other side of the media industry, promoting small businesses throughout the United States for two years in a public relations role. His first book, How to Start a Home-Based App Development Business, was published in 2014. He lives with his wife and daughter in the Chicago suburbs.