How younger and older employees can work in harmony

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In the digital marketing industry, three predominant generations make up our workforce: Baby Boomers, Gen Xers, and Millennials. But beware, labels can be misleading. If you assume anything about the personal behavior of one person based on their label, at best, you'll be wrong a third of the time. For example, at 38, I display the classic Gen X characteristic of questioning the status quo. If you were to assume that about me just because of my age, you would be right in my case but not with a random sampling of ten other Gen Xers.

Lisa O'Keefe, VP of talent and culture for BrightTag, prefers to recruit professionals that are not caught up in useless labels and focus on more important criteria to make the best hiring decisions. "One of the core values of BrightTag is to hire people who are open minded and curious," O'Keefe said. "We find that mindset knows no generational bounds and instead, results in a lot of interesting discussion and learning from each other. Because we work in such a collaborative environment and tend to be pretty like-minded, it usually takes a generational topic to remind us that we share different history." So, when can labels be helpful? The AARP paper, "Leading a Multigenerational Workforce," takes a very interesting stance on what you can learn about our differing generations in order to figure out how we can best work together. The study focuses on the environmental forces at play during a particular generation's formative years. Unlike behavior stereotypes that could vary from person to person in a generation, exogenous factors such as world events, advances in technology, and other defining moments were shared by the entire group.

How to get young and old employees to work in harmony

The takeaway here is to not allow labels to predispose how you think a person will behave, but to understand the events and environment that shaped their perspective. From this information, you can learn to embrace generational differences and find ways to leverage these variances and not allow them to fester with unaddressed tension.

The following is a summary of some of the AARP findings. I also asked a member of each generation in our industry to offer a few words of wisdom to their generational colleagues on how they've found best to work with the other two groups.