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Press Start: Lead an Empowered Life as a Clinical Laboratorian

The Benefits of Intergenerational Teams

Published August 9, 2014 9:06 PM by Glen McDaniel
 

As the workforces ages we find many Baby Boomers (born 1946 to 1964) are retiring and the workforce is increasingly made up of younger individuals. The interesting thing about different generations working together is that values and even work ethics will vary. Oldsters (Boomers like myself) tend to assess younger workers as being sloppy, unprofessional and egotistical.

 

The reality, though, is that very often younger laboratorians and other workers just don’t see themselves as “married” to a job the way Boomers are.They are early adopters to technology and tend to eagerly welcome new “toys” in the lab rather than see them as just additional instruments to learn, maintain and troubleshoot.

 

Post-Boomer generations tend to live by the axiom, “We work to live, not live to work.” They realize they are very likely to have several jobs during their work life and do not have unwavering loyalty to any one organization. But that does not make them unprofessional slouches. In fact we raised many of them to be the independent individuals they are.

  • Generation X: Defined as the generation born between 1965 and 1980, members of this group are more likely than their predecessors to have been raised in single-parent households or by two working parents. Having grown up playing video games and using computers, they may see technology as allowing them to work smarter and tend to use technology in daily life: to schedule, make goals, tote files around, make presentations and communicate.
  • Millennials: Born between 1981 and 2000, members of this group are also known as Generation Y or Generation Next. As noted in a 2007 Pew Research report Millennials have been “shaped by an unprecedented revolution in technology and dramatic events both at home and abroad.” Gen Y is more diverse, racially and ethnically, than previous generations and is often seen as being more tolerant on various issues, the Pew report found. For Millennials, the line separating their work life and leisure time may be less defined and they may be more likely to move from one job to another with no qualms.

Generation Y individuals are much more likely to entertain and accept divergent views and are less conformist. They might question rules and find it logical to make exceptions to rules based on specific circumstances. They also expect management to understand why the need for work-life balance might prevent them from sacrificing for the good or convenience of the organization.

 

Whether you are the manager or peer of a member of an intergenerational team, it helps if you are willing to accept certain realities without being too judgmental of those not exactly like yourself. Different perspectives prevent the stagnation of group think. So the “young ‘uns” may be different, but that also means they offer different benefits, making the entire team stronger.

 

So, how do you cope with that Generation X or Millennial  for the good of your laboratory? A University of Notre Dame business school pamphlet offers the following suggestions.

  • Value individual strengths: Lose the stereotypes that come with labeling groups of people. Instead, maximize the potential of each member of your team by understanding and appreciating his or her background, skills and goals.
  • Provide training: It’s not enough to simply assemble an intergenerational team and expect it to work flawlessly and seamlessly. Provide awareness training and allow employees to learn about their differences, as well as their similarities.
  • Create partnerships: Establish mentoring partnerships among the generations. For example, team a tech-savvy Millennial with a baby boomer who values technology but needs some hands-on training.
  • Be flexible: Acknowledge and, if possible, accommodate various work styles. That may include offering flexible hours and work-from-home options. It might also involve catering to different food and drink preferences in the company cafeteria, or providing wireless connections for employees’ personal mobile devices or charging stations for their electric vehicles.

If you follow these suggestions, what is generally perceived as an annoyance and a negative can be turned into a huge benefit.

2 comments

It is sometimes hard to work with older techs or MLSs. Sometimes you have a clik because the younger MLS and MLTs stick together because we understand each other, we can talk abut  social things,  we can talk about work, we can share concerns. We  even see the workplace issues and policies the same.

Our suggestions are not accepted, we are judged all the time and even when talking to each other the older folks assume we are wasting time.

I think we should learn from each other. That's the way it should be. If they cant take us then they should just go ahead and retire.

Juan Sabino August 11, 2014 5:03 PM
Houston TX

I am wondering why is it that it is us the Baby Boomers who have to make adjustments and learn how to cope with  the Millennials. they should be taught in school how to  exist and act professionally in the real world.

We were taught how to dress, write resumes, speak to our elders and basically learn how to get along. Now we are being told we must act a certain way t o please the Gen X an Y.

Melissa T August 10, 2014 7:52 PM
Los Angeles CA

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