If you’re not currently working with or directly managing younger people in the workplace, you soon will be. Interacting with people outside your generation comes with a whole host of challenges. But there’s one serious problem, in particular, to keep in mind when working with younger team members that you absolutely must hold at the forefront of your mind.
What is the problem? It’s the same problem every generation has with other generations: preconceptions.
Managing Younger People in the Workplace
Indeed, individuals born between 1980 and 2000 have had different life experiences than those born between 1960 and 1980 or 1940 and 1960. Certainly, younger professionals have grown up with a more diverse workplace culture.
Older generations did not have as much access to technology or advancement opportunities, especially across racial and gender lines. And while all these are factors, they are less significant than the most crucial factor between generations. Prejudice.
Ageism in Organizations
When we pre-judge people before we know them, we form prejudices. We’re often mistaken when we make assumptions about what someone will do or not do because of their age. We do this because it’s easier to assume we’re correct rather than learn how wrong we are.
That’s not to say there aren’t facts that are more likely to be true about younger workers. However, you should use this information to improve your relationships, not stereotype. For example:
Younger generations have grown up with technology
This means they are often more comfortable using computers in various contexts. That doesn’t mean that they want to be computing all the time. However, they may be able to do things older workers may not know how to do. Ask them to teach you something rather than do it for you.
Younger generations have grown up with more diversity
Which often means they expect more people to speak up with more perspectives. That doesn’t mean they cannot respect authority, just that they are accustomed to hearing a variety of ideas. Accept that many, not all, strive to be accepting.
Younger generations have had, on average, more comforts and opportunities
Simply by virtue of an ever-improving world. That doesn’t mean they cannot deal with scarcity, just that they might have had chances you didn’t have at their age. Instead of assuming they are not as tough, give them the opportunity to contribute.
(Don’t get me wrong. Too many people are born into poverty, prejudice, and a lack of educational opportunities).
These suggestions don’t just apply to younger workers. No matter who you are working with, celebrate your differences. Avoid making judgments. Focus on inclusion. Seek to understand so everyone can be productive, effective, and satisfied in the workplace.
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