Generation Gaps in the Workplace

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Walk into any office and you’ll likely find a mix of people at different points of their lives: Baby boomers, Generation Xers, millennials. And the presence of Generation Z continues to grow.

Iona, the main character in Clare Pooley’s Iona Iverson’s Rules for Commuting, often experiences people judging her competencies based on her age. She’s on the older side, some feel she’s past her prime, and she tries desperately to prove them wrong. But what do generational identities say about our capabilities as workers? To tackle this question, we’ll first have a look at the impact our generational differences have on us in the workplace, and then delve into the truth of the issue.

How do generational differences affect us in the workplace?

It isn’t hard to notice the differences between one age group and another: music, communication methods and even values. These differences can manifest themselves in a negative way in the workplace and cause us to argue, taking work from productive and efficient to a situation of lowered engagement. Soon enough, this can become frustrating, and we may have a tendency to blame our generational differences for it, especially if we already hold biases towards one another based on our ages.

The truth

Though some employees may think that they are simply unable to work with a person who isn’t in the same stage of life as them, or that some generations are less reliable, our distinctions in work patterns and capabilities aren’t as accentuated as all that. Research has indicated that the correlation between our generational upbringing and the way we act in and experience the workforce is close to zero, meaning there is little difference in attitudes towards work between generations.

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Megan Gerhardt, a management professor at Miami University, has researched the impacts of generational differences in the work field. “Many of the generational conversations in the news today rely on false stereotypes and clickbait headlines, rather than taking the time to understand the important differences that are a part of our generational identities,” she claims.

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