The Clash of the Generations: Ethics and Communication

By 2021, Gen X will be the senior members of the workforce, and both Gen X and New Millennials  will be in leadership positions. Big changes are already beginning to appear and, in 10 years, the world of work will be significantly different.

In my coaching practice, I’ve often listened to common complaints. Here are a few:

Clash Point #1: Work Ethics

Older workers talk about “going to work” and have always had a specified work schedule like 9-to-5. In the manufacturing economy, everyone used to be under the same roof, at the same time, to achieve maximum productivity, but times—and jobs—change.

Younger workers view work as “something you do,” anywhere, any time. They communicate 24/7 and expect real-time responses. The rigidity of set work hours seems unnecessary and even unproductive in the information age.

To younger workers, work ethics aren’t defined by how many hours one spends at a desk. Success is defined not by rank or seniority, but by what matters to each person individually.  Younger workers want to cut to the chase and define their true value. They don’t want to be paid for time; they want to be paid for their services and skills.

For younger employees with working spouses and children, work-life balance and flexible conditions have greater priority. Is someone who arrives at 9:30 a.m. necessarily working less hard than those who arrive at 8:30 a.m.? Differences in generational attitudes must not interfere with progress and productivity.

Clash Point #2:How We Communicate

Ask anyone over the age of 40 about younger workers, and you’ll hear stories about texting, cell phones and ear buds. Common complaints include:

  • They can’t spell or write.
  • They multitask, so I’m never sure they’re paying attention.
  • They’re attention-deficit kids, unable to focus for long.
  • They expect instant feedback and email responses.

These tech-immersed young workers are just as frustrated with older workers, who respond days later and think setting up a team meeting is the answer, when a few text messages could get faster results.

Older workers can’t expect the newer generation to digress into the past. Technology needs to be understood and used by everyone to improve productivity.

Communications and relationships remain essential, regardless of how technology is used. Both sides need to use and benefit from each other’s strengths in this domain.

Have you felt any of these Clash Points in YOUR team? I would love for you to share!

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