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Tips for working in a multi-generational workplace

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Jeanie Sharp, Guest Columnist

Today’s workplace is diverse, with multiple generations working side by side. In fact, it is not uncommon for someone to have a boss who is younger than they are. According to a recent OfficeTeam survey, 82 percent of respondents said they would be comfortable reporting to a manager who is younger. However, they identified work ethics or values (26 percent) and leadership and learning styles (22 percent) as the biggest challenges in having a younger boss.

No matter where you work, there are tips that everyone can follow if you find yourself reporting to someone younger:

1. Give your boss a chance. Avoid making pre-judgments or jumping to conclusions.

2. Be supportive. Listen to your manager’s plans and volunteer your assistance as appropriate.

3. Be an employee, not a parent. Be helpful if your boss asks about procedures, but avoid telling him
or her “how we do it here.”

4. Be open with your boss. Don’t assume that you know what your manager wants. Ask about his or her priorities and expectations regarding workflow.

5. Be flexible. You may need to modify your own work style or habits to ensure better relations.

Having a boss from a different generation may bring a fresh perspective to the position. If you are in that position, and find yourself managing individuals who are older, there are certain things you can do
as well:

1. Don’t make assumptions. Though it helps to keep certain characteristics of each generation in mind, don’t fall into the trap of stereotyping team members.

2. Stay grounded. Don’t let your position or title cause you to become overly confident. If you treat people with respect, staff will follow your lead.

3. Foster a collaborative environment. Acknowledge the expertise your staff has accumulated and seek feedback on matters that would benefit from their perspective.

4. Use them as mentors. Encourage experienced team members to mentor their colleagues. This will provide a fresh challenge and will ensure a knowledge transfer among employees.

5. Maintain open dialogue. Provide regular communication with staff and find out what motivates different individuals.

In a multigenerational workforce, it is imperative that all employees make every effort to avoid stereotypes and work to build connections. After all, someone’s management abilities are more important than his or her age.


Jeanie Sharp is a regional manager for Robert Half and OfficeTeam, based in Wilmington.

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