Managing Perceptions in the Intergenerational Workforce


image_04Due to the tough economy since the Great Recession, many people of retirement age have elected to remain in the workforce. At the same time, new college graduates are entering the workplace, creating a dichotomy of older experienced employees and young tech-savvy workers. Managing the perceptions that each generation has of the other helps to ensure that the intergenerational workplace is one of productivity and respect.

Changing Attitudes Through Mentoring

Human resources personnel can set up mentoring programs within the workplace by pairing a more experienced senior staff member with a new employee. The young person gains inside knowledge of the company’s policies and politics while the longstanding team member can learn about the use of social networking and the newest tech advances in the workplace. Mentoring helps different generations gain appreciation and respect for each other.

Judging Books by Their Covers

While the Baby Boomers and older generations may be clean-shaven and accustomed to wearing business suits or ties to work, younger employees may be strolling into the office with multiple tattoos, body piercings, colorful hair, torn jeans and hoodies. They may perceive the older staff as stuffy and boring, while older workers may see the new team members and find them to be disrespectful or even lazy. Accepting differences in appearance and setting basic company dress codes helps to manage perceptions and underlying attitudes about competence and intelligence.

Speaking Their Minds

Members of the newest generation of workers often feel free to speak their minds in any situation. This may cause older employees to become stressed and frustrated because they were taught to keep their opinions and politics outside of the office. Human resources personnel can encourage communication by writing easily understood policies on the voicing of political beliefs in the workplace and coaching staff on appropriate workplace expression and conduct. Positive reinforcement is preferred over discipline.