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Cultivating Meaningful Working Relationships Across Generations

Posted By Administration, Thursday, July 11, 2019

By Carly Silberstein, DES, CED, CEO, Redstone Agency

For the first time in history, we have four generations active in the workforce. Day in and day out we hear about the challenges of this reality on society, businesses, and associations alike. Let’s take a quick look at a few ways that we can all cultivate more meaningful working relationships by focusing on the common ground, or similarities, and leveraging our differences.

Understanding 

Association/workplace training and education on generational and societal research is incredibly beneficial (XYZ University can help with this). This type of training can help provide a common ground or understanding of where our fellow colleagues and members are coming from. What is their value system? Which life events, societal shifts and/or technological advancements have shaped your colleague/members lived experiences? How has this possibly impacted their upbringing? Armed with this factual data, people can grasp some of the realities that may not have been known to them or may have been accepted as stereotypes or generalizations. It is also recommended that associations and organizations do what they can to determine the preferred method of communication for each person (member/employee). Communication is central to everything that we do in all aspects of our lives, so understanding communication preferences and finding a common ground, is essential for establishing productive and meaningful working relationships. 

For more background information on this topic, please read “With 4 generations in the workplace, employers expected to juggle vastly different expectations”. 

Open-mindedness and non-judgmental approaches 

It is important that organizations foster safe environments where people are encouraged, celebrated and acknowledged for their unique contributions. While easier said than done, one way that associations and corporations can do this is by facilitating cross-generational work teams, where it makes sense. In certain industries or work environments this is not always possible, in these cases, encouraging ad hoc brainstorming or cross-departmental ideation, will allow people who don’t often have the opportunity to work together, to come together, share their thoughts, ideas and experience related to the problem or scenario at hand and will likely yield a better result than if the problem was solved in isolation. This type of work ought to be highlighted and celebrated. 

Collaboration versus competitiveness – Working and learning from one another – Knowledge exchange versus transfer

This can be facilitated through workplace or association programs such as co-mentorship, buddy system, sessions and workshops which highlight different members and employee skills and strengths, award programs (new member / employee versus legacy), etc. Similar to the examples provided above (creating an open-mindedness and non-judgmental work environment), we need to be thinking about opportunities for collaboration versus working in silos. 

Patience 

We are constantly surrounded by differences; whether it’s generational, personal preferences, cultural, or whatever else. We won’t always see eye to eye with our fellow members or colleagues. This is just the reality. Working with individuals who may be of another generation is no different. Take a deep breath, and practice patience and kindness. At the end of the day, we are all human and are just trying to do our part. 

This is just the tip of the iceberg. There are so many other ways to cultivate meaningful relationships. How are some of the ways that your association / organization is leveraging the similarities and differences of employees and members of different generations for a more productive and profitable workforce?

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