What does a typical office setting look like to you? A group of people roughly the same age and personality types? That description may have made sense a few decades ago, but today the cultural landscape of the workplace has changed. Today, cultural diversity in the workplace includes employees of all backgrounds and ages coming together to work for the same company, many times at the same level.
The tension, often among Baby Boomers and Millennials, can cause workplace productivity to come to a halt. Sometimes Baby Boomers (ages 49-67) and Millennials (ages 13-33) have communication problems because of how they believe the other approaches their work. Baby Boomers can find Millennials distracted and lacking commitment while Millennials tend to find the elder generation out of touch and lacking creativity. Even though the differences may pop up, they can be managed.
One thing that’s important to note is that it is unlawful to discriminate or discipline an employee based on age. Employers and employees should also know that the Age Discrimination of Employment Act, only covers workers over the age of 40.
3 Tips to Close the Generational Gap
It may seem easier to separate the two different generations in the workplace, but consider keeping them together. Some companies are built on generational differences and cultural diversity, which helps them succeed. Though businesses can be founded with multi-generational employees, The Age Discrimination in Employment Act only protects workers who are over the age of 40 from adverse employment actions based on age. Encourage multiple generations to work together, to learn from each other, and to problem solve collaboratively to create a cohesive staff.
When pointing out problems or providing constructive criticism, stick to the actual issues rather than exposing character flaws. Age may be easy to blame for a workplace problem, but it is unlawful to discriminate against an employee based on age. Work must be evaluated using the same criteria for all employees engaged in the same type of work regardless of age, and judgments must be based upon the satisfactory completion of work, not how old the employee is. A good practice tip is to review the employee’s job description prior to counseling to determine whether he or she is meeting the expectations that were clearly laid out for them in the beginning.
Each generation can get stuck in its own way and can be unwilling to consider a new way of thinking. Millennials may not understand cultural histories and values, and Baby Boomers may have a hard time understanding social media and new technology. Bringing the two together can provide great insight into the different ages through new and old technology.
Cultural diversity in the workforce is the norm with workers of all different ages and backgrounds. Gather everything everyone has to offer and use it to create a dynamic office environment. Have you ever had any experience with generational differences? Share with us your tips for mediation and success.
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Asha Wilkerson is the founder of The Wilkerson Law Office. Ms. Wilkerson provides skilled advice and counsel to for-profit, non-profit, and faith-based organizations in the areas of business and employment law. The mission of The Wilkerson Law Office, is to preserve the longevity of your business by ensuring that every aspect of your organization is legally sound and operating in compliance with state and federal law.