Today’s workforce is generationally diverse: according to an article by think tank Pew Research Center, there are currently four very different generations working side by side in the workplace:
Baby Boomers (those born 1946-1964), who occupy critical leadership roles in the organizations;
- Gen Xers (born 1965-1980), who may also occupy leadership positions;
- Millennials (born 1981- 1996), who are next in line for leadership positions;
- Generation Z (those born 1997-2012), who are just now making their way in the workforce
Bridging the generation gap at work can be challenging because each generation brings with it unique work values, ethics, and preferred ways of managing and being managed. “Generations are defined by socio-economic and political events that occurred during the formative years,” explains Grace De Castro, founder and Chief Empowerment Officer of V+A Consulting, a boutique consulting firm with expertise in customized people programs and creative business solutions. “These events helped shape the way a person thinks, so one generation’s way of doing things may be vastly different from another generation’s.”
As a result, it is not uncommon for older generations to ‘look down’ on younger team members and judge ‘Why are they acting this way, we weren’t like that before?’ or for Millennials and Gen Zers to regard older coworkers in a similarly negative light.
While these thoughts and emotions are valid, it is important for companies to reduce stereotyping and cultivate understanding so that everyone works together harmoniously.Grace De Castro
“While these thoughts and emotions are valid, it is important for companies to reduce stereotyping and cultivate understanding so that everyone works together harmoniously,” Grace advises. Below, she shares 5 myths about the different generations that need to be debunked or contextualized:
Myth #1: Gen Xers have outdated values. They are homophobic, racist, sexist, etc.
PLAUSIBLE: “It might seem that way because Gen Xers are in positions of authority at work, so everything they say is noticed,” Grace concedes. “But this does not mean that all members of that generation think the same way.”
Myth #2: Millennials and Gen Zers are lazy.
FACT: According to this Forbes article, 4 in 10 millennials consider themselves “work martyrs.” “By this, we mean that they think of themselves as dedicated and indispensable workers who are wracked with guilt whenever they take time off, so many of them actually continue working while they are on leave,” Grace points out. This article by the Harvard Business Review also concurs — millennials are more likely to forfeit paid days off than older generations.
Myth #3: Millennials and Gen Z-ers are entitled and disrespectful.
PLAUSIBLE: Being entitled means believing oneself to be inherently deserving of privileges or special treatment. So are younger co-workers really more self-absorbed? Grace says this would depend on the culture of the organization. This is because while a study published in the Journal of Business and Psychology found no difference in the work ethics of the different generations, she says that millennials are more willing to speak up for themselves and express their opinions — even to their superiors — than their older counterparts. “Millennials are not afraid to ask for that raise or promotion, or to take the risk to move on when necessary,” she says. This is why it’s important for organizations to create safe spaces in the workplace and make sure that employees are allowed to express themselves without fear of repercussions.
Myth #4: Millennials and Gen Zers seek purpose over paycheck.
FACT: A survey of more than 20,000 LinkedIn members revealed that Millennials were found to be the least purpose-driven generation. Additionally, 84% of Gen Z workers said they would like to do purposeful work for a company in which they believe in, but financial security has greater relevance.
It is actually Baby Boomers and Gen Xers who prioritize purpose. “Sense of purpose deepens as you progress in your career,” Grace explains. “For Baby Boomers, it’s because they have worked longer and are at that age when they want to leave a legacy. On the other hand, Gen Xers are old enough to have experience and financial security, but also still young enough to consider doing other things.” She adds that the COVID-19 pandemic, in particular, has caused many Gen Xers to reexamine their current life path and ask themselves “Am I really doing what I’m supposed to be doing?’”
Myth #5: Millennials and Gen Zers are job-hoppers and have no loyalty.
PLAUSIBLE: Contrary to popular perception, the Pew Research Center says that Millennials actually stay with their employers longer than Gen X workers did at the same age.
However, a survey by Gallup reveals that 21% of Millennials have changed their jobs within the past two years and another 44% plan on leaving the company in the next two years. Additionally, less than half of all Millennials and Gen Z workers feel connected to their jobs , resulting in more than 40% saying that they would change jobs if another opportunity arose.
“So based on data, yes, I would say that Millennials and Gen Zers are job-hoppers,” Grace says. “But the better question leaders should ask is why do they do this?”
Bridging the gap
Grace encourages leaders to keep striving to understand the different generations at work and encourage team members to be more empathetic towards one another. “Being a good leader means you keep levelling up and empowering your team members, and building an environment where good becomes better and better becomes best,” she says.
MindNation offers virtual trainings on how to manage multigenerational employees so that you lessen stress, increase empathy, and build happier, healthier, and more productive teams. Book this talk now through [email protected].