While “generational diversity” isn’t the trendiest of phases (I get it), I can tell you it’s important.
And for us millennials, it’s important to understand ita meaning. In fact, I’d go so far as saying that knowing what this means makes our lives a lot easier.
To begin, let’s take a look at the current generations in the world. Did you know it currently consists of seven generations? The Greatest generation, Traditionalists, Baby Boomers, Gen X, millennials (Gen Y), Gen Z and Gen Alpha.
Take it to the workplace and you have five of these seven gens making up the global workforce. The majority of those being us millennials and Gen Z (circa 60%).
It’s the first time in history where we’ve seen such a broad range of people of different age in the workforce.
Which factors are allowing this to happen?
Our global population is being shaped by globalization, advances in technology, medicine and huger quality of life which has increased our life span. This in turn has pushed the “typical” retirement age. The rising cost of living, inflation, wage discrepancies, debt and other global strains have also seen many workers, who in the past would have retired, still being part of the workforce.
The benefits of diversity are many!
There is a huge richness that generational diversity brings to our lives and the workplace, but oftentimes it goes unnoticed. This often happens due to lack of awareness, knowledge and tolerance for the diverse. This is a classic case of “we don’t know what we don’t know”.
Why does this matter knowing? And why specifically for us?
Let’s think about it.
Each generation is shaped by different social, political or economic events.
For example, serving in World Wars in the 40s, versus the movements of the 70s, versus the technological expansion of the ‘90s. This translates into generational specific traits, behaviors, attitudes, and values that make these generations unique.
Think about the world we’re growing up right now. It’s not the same, nor will it be the same for future generations.
While on the one hand this collective mix offers a huge range of experiences, skills, and knowledge, on the other it can lead to conflicts or tensions between people.
Have you ever been in a situation where you just don’t understand the other person’s views or perhaps you experienced a communication breakdown?
Or you have been at work and can’t understand why your manager expects you to be in a physical office versus working remotely, or says you’re “too inexperienced” and overlooks you for a promotion?
It’s not as uncommon as you think. And these situations exist because of the expectations, preconceived notions, or unconscious biases that we all have. These are founded on our own individual experiences within our own generation. As a result, we can unintentionally project these bias toward others and start creating labels,making assumptions, or attaching expectations.
This is what causes the breakdown between us and this is what leads to those frustrating moments. All of which can be avoided if we simply know that generational differences exist. It is important to not focus on creating differences and being divided, but instead, focus on to bridge relationships and create stronger connections. This is power.
So the fact your Boomer manager likes you to check in promptly at 9 am in the physical office, your colleague won’t reply to an instant message, or your Gen X friend is a little cynical about the organisation, is because of how they’re shaped. Not because they have something personal against you.
There’s a saying that knowledge is power. For us millennials, as we continue to get older, and take the reins of our adult lives (and workplaces) having a little extra power in our back pocket, is a great thing.
We can use what we know to make our life easier.