Working With Other Generations
Whenever Ira Wolfe, president, Success Performance Solutions, starts a meeting, he asks who in the audience can name all four Beatles. "It's amazing the shock on the boomers' faces when all the hands don't go up," he said. "I then ask who can name the Jonas Brothers, and many of the boomers ask, ‘who?'"
Boomers are overall a social bunch, and they obviously need and want to interact with their younger compatriots. But there are different social cues and rules between baby boomers and Generation X and Yers.
"We all like people who are like ourselves, and it has been well documented that different generations in the workplace do not communicate with each other," said Beth Henry, RNBC, MS, cofounder of Generation Works, Buffalo, NY, a company focusing on generational issues in the workplace.
For example, Henry said baby boomers' experience of a "peace and love" workplace makes them want to have a lot of meetings so all are involved in the decision-making process. This may be different from the typical Generation Xer, who is more self-directed.
Additionally, baby boomers may be put off by the younger generation's attempt to multitask while speaking with them-boomers may interpret this as being ignored.
Laboratory managers need to make sure all employees are not using demeaning age related comments, such as "they are too old to learn this" or "they are too young to be in a leadership role," Henry said.
Coworkers also need to remember to keep their communications with each other on a collegial level and not think that they are talking to someone who could be their child, parent or grandparent. Laboratorians should be viewed as fellow professionals no matter what age they are.
According to Ann Fry, MSW, head boomer and CEO of www.itsboomertime.com, boomers need to be open-minded about their younger coworkers. "Boomers need to be able to see the strengths the Gen Y and X workers bring. We can be too quick to dismiss the young as unknowledgeable-this is a mistake," Fry noted. "Be open to learning what the younger set can teach us, especially in up-to-date technology and social networking."
To make sure generations work well together, Henry suggested laboratories come up with intergenerational plans to identify, address and resolve intergeneration conflict.
Wolfe said it is extremely important to have some kind of a meeting or a luncheon to determine what is important to each generation and to establish reference points. "No generation is better or worse-each brings assets and liabilities," Wolfe said.