One generation can make a big difference in how people view the world. Cultural values shift and the events that shape our lives vary dramatically in the span of several decades.
Consider world events that are indelibly printed in your memory. Where were you when you heard the news of the planes crashing into the Twin Towers on 9-11? Those in generation Z may have been small children and protected from the horrific news as their parents processed the disaster. Most Baby Boomers recall exactly where they were the moment they heard the news of John F. Kennedy‘s assassination, while Generation X,Y , and Z folks weren’t even born when that happened. Those incidents simply underscore the differences time can make in experiences, values, standards, and ideals.
Offices and organizations face a unique challenge today with four generations of adults working alongside each other. There may even be a fifth generation if you have people over age 72 who are still in the workforce.
If you need a refresher on the names and dates used to refer to the generations, here’s a helpful chart from Pew Research Center. The chart doesn’t include Generation Z, which includes those born
between 1999 and 2015. It will be interesting to find out what will come after Z.
Note: The Millennial Generation is also referred to as Generation Y.
As I work with teams to create healthy company cultures, I notice it takes commitment, effort, an unselfish attitude, and patience to create an atmosphere of support and cooperation. It’s far easier to criticize those who are not like us than to listen and empathize. A clear example of what happens when we allow ourselves to be polarized by our differences is the flagrant racism and excessive violence affecting the culture of our nation. When people react in anger instead of responding with thoughtful regard, explosions are ignited that undermine the foundation of our entire culture.
Generational differences might pale in comparison to those defined by race, religion, or ethnicity. In reality, the ramifications of all of these in the quest for unity are huge. The good that can come when we pool our skills, insights, knowledge, and abilities is inestimable. The damage that occurs when we fail to do so is incalculable.
The synergy of a multi-generational team is a force to behold. It’s worth working for.