Navigating the generational gaps in today's workplace
Whether you're working for a massive corporation or a tech startup, there’s no denying that workplace politics can be an issue. This is especially true in today's environment with employees from a number of generations working side-by-side.
However, the problem of workplace politics can't be blamed solely on the millennials, baby boomers or Generation Z. The real issues lie in the transition of one generation entering the workforce with an increased use of technology and a greater understanding of the current digital landscape.
New employees are no longer forced to start underground, below the ladder, to hope that in five years, they'll have a seat at the executive table. Now, it's not about brand loyalty or ageism. Instead, it's more of a dog-eat-dog atmosphere. Respect is and always has been a two-way street. Without it being given by one party, it cannot be reciprocated and sent back by the other. In business, this is where tensions flare and the purpose of the company is lost within workplace politics due to ego and price.
Managing the generation gaps
Today's leaders need to be able to serve everyone within the workforce, from baby boomers to Generation Y, all the way to the expected overflow of candidates entering the job market come this summer.
Businesses have been managing the shift in employee values and standards for nearly a decade when millennials began entering the workplace. This younger crop of employees taught us that the old way of business simply wasn't going to work for them. They made a systematic plan through word of mouth and forever left their mark on the workforce.
These days, an unappreciated and underutilized employee won't stick around for the sake of loyalty. They know that if their current employer doesn't appreciate and attempt to respect them — someone, somewhere will.
The digitization that’s taken over highlights those who aren't adapting. This generally stems from the top down. If the leadership within a company isn't bridging the gaps for those entering the workforce throughout any part of their professional journey, it's not the employees that will inevitably suffer; it's the company.
This doesn’t mean you should blindly hire candidates based on out-of-the-book methods unrelated to experience, tenacity and drive. By all means, design applicable test-runs your tentative employees can take to ensure they'll be beneficial the way their resume, portfolio and cover letter say they will.
However, testing shouldn't be used as a method to intimidate or motivate. As an entrepreneur and business owner, you must remember these are real people with real emotions and anxieties. Some test better than others. But to test someone on skills beyond the boundaries that are even remotely relative to one's scope of work is not how management should work; not in 2019 and definitely not within the digital and increasingly remote working world businesses are now finding themselves in.
Everyone has needs in the workplace, and they should be given a safe and respected platform to share those needs and concerns. They should also receive thoughtful and tangible feedback in a timely manner. It's time to take the status quo of the past and, well — keep it there.
How to work together
It’s time to allow, enable and practice full transparency and merge it with the two-way street of respect in the workplace. There should be no hierarchical order. If a junior manager who hasn’t fully climbed the corporate ladder presents a more applicable and profitable idea that one suggested by someone who ranks above them, then that idea should be heard — not criticized or seen as a failure.
If upper management and/or those within the C-suite fail to adapt — think biomimicry — collaboration at its highest capacity may seize to exist. It's pride and ego getting in the way of progress, success and growth. These are people with different skill sets that should be known and utilized, not abandoned and shifted towards failure for suggesting an out-of-the-box idea. Ego has no place in this digital age, and definitely not the constantly evolving workplace.
You need these millennials to turn their backward thinking into ideas, plans and actions, in collaboration with the drive of Gen Z, to create a workforce for a better tomorrow. A place where profit and morale are high and trust is present in every aspect of the company.
A lack of transparency and the failure to adapt will cause any company to suffer in terms of resignations, layoffs, increased stressed levels and overworked employees. Leaders need to make sure their employees are delegating and collaborating in order to get things done with immense efficiency. Over time, this will lead both ends of the spectrum to organically earn that respect of each other.
With earned respect comes prosperity and a high-energy workplace. If that's not a goal for your business, maybe it’s time to redefine your narrative and let the youthful light in.