Having multiple generations in the workplace is the new normal. There are now five generations in the workplace working side by side, as many people live longer, work longer and delay retirement. This creates a new type of workplace tension—what I call “generational tension,” loosely defined as a lack of respect for someone who’s of a different generation than you. Generational tension is cropping up as we see more older employees working for and taking direction from younger managers.
In a 2012 CareerBuilder survey of knowledge workers in the U.S., 34 percent said they are older than their bosses, and 15 percent said they work for someone who is at least 10 years younger, denoting a shift in the correlation between seniority and leadership. As more 30-year-olds are managing 50-year-olds, it will be up to both the manager and the employee to make this work. Companies are also beginning to put in place a range of strategies to acknowledge age diversity as the newest type of diversity and inclusion challenge in the workplace.
In the first quarter of 2015, millennials became the largest generational cohort in the workplace, according to Pew Research Center data. And by 2025, millennials and Generation Z will make up more than 60 percent of the workforce.
Forward-looking companies are focusing on ways to build generational intelligence in the workplace. Generational intelligence is defined as the ability to understand the similarities, differences and expectations of each generation. So, rather than dwelling on outdated generational myths, like baby boomers can’t use social media effectively (I am a boomer and have 34,100 Twitter followers) or millennials are entitled (my daughter is one of the hardest working millennials I know, and was nominated as one of the “30 Under 30” by PR News)…