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We have four generations working side-by-side-by-side-by-side in the workplace. That’s impressive and a bit intimidating. Why? There are four distinct groups gathered together in one place to achieve common goals, and all four groups have different backgrounds, influencers, social characteristics, and communication modes.

Veterans 1922-1945

Baby Boomers 1946-1964

Generation X 1965-1980

Generation Y 1980-2001

Why is this combination so significant that it causes friction in the workplace? Generational differences can affect everything in a company, from recruitment to building teams, from dealing with change to motivating and managing, and to maintaining and increasing productivity. The same issues apply to those working in volunteer organizations and other clubs.

Think of how generational differences, relative to how people communicate, might affect misunderstandings, high employee turnover, difficulty in attracting employees and gaining employee commitment. Take for instance communications. Veterans began their careers long before computers were invented, and the Gen Ys never had to learn this stuff – they were born with cell phones, email and the Internet.

source: FDU Magazine

source: FDU Magazine

There are more differences between generations than ever before. Even though my parents are only one generation away, I see variations between their work styles than mine. Now again imagine that larger gap between Veterans and Gen Ys or Baby Boomers and Gen Ys.

The opportunity is available for the four generations to understand each other better. Each of us usually think the way we do it is the correct way: “You weren’t even a twinkle in your momma’s eye while I was building this company” to “Just because you’ve always done it that way doesn’t mean it’s right.” parents just dont understandWhile not quite a “Parents Just Don’t Understand” gist, there are undertones of under appreciating the nuanced differences that causes flare up on both sides and creates work environment unhappiness.

One thing is certain – the workplace is fluid. We continue to rewrite roles to accommodate, and one day when the Millennials enter the workforce, everything will adjust again. In order to be successful, keep in mind the motivators, preferred rewards, and communication styles of those around you. ALL three of those other generations around you.