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Generational culture clash – How to align five generations at work?

Every generation is shaped by different values​​, typical traditions as well as the social events and framework conditions of their time. We all know the problems and conflicts that sometimes occur for example within families between two or three generations: we have different values​​, desires, personality traits and communication styles – and quickly we tangle with one another. Intergenerational conflicts like that are not uncommon.

In our world of work we are facing the challenge to bring up to five generations not only “under one roof”, but to develop high performing teams and who work together successfully and who turn differences into synergies.

What does this multigenerational environment mean for the management and executives? Of course, we want to and should treat all employees fairly – we just might have to develop a new understanding of ‘fairness’. When ‘traditionals’ (born before 1945) as well as ‘GenY’s’ and ‘Linksters’ (born after 1995) work together, it can’t be the right definition of ‘fair’ to treat everyone equal. Instead managers and leaders should try to meet the different needs and attitudes of their employees to ensure that everybody is working in the framework conditions which are the best for him or her. This is how companies and leaders can ensure a sustainable performance of an employee. But this is just the first step into the right direction: Teams as a whole have to work together successfully!

To achieve this goal it is important to have a culture in which differences are not only accepted but valued. Often this is not easy: How difficult is it for a ‘traditional’ who worked all his live from 8 to 5 to accept that the ‘GenY-colleague’ is working flexible, being in the office only a few times in the week? And how are ‘Digital Natives’ or ‘Linksters’ handling the fact that his older colleague keeps his lists on paper? There are lots of possible situations which could lead to conflicts – and even conflict solving is managed very different in the generations because of the different communication styles.

Intergenerational conflicts are and will be an important challenge for companies to handle. But facing the skilled worker shortage every generation is needed in the workforce and a successful co-working is also essential for a sustainable business growth.

This is why Henkel in 2008 already established different mentoring schemes that are focused on mediation between the workplace generations. We are convinced that there is no better or more effective way for developing an understanding of his or her counterpart that a personal dialogue. And our success speaks for itself. Meanwhile the eighth cycle is running…

What do you think? Is mentoring the one and only way to mediate between different generations? What’s your suggestion?

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One Comment

  1. 01/31/2014 - Author: Sonja

    Just read this amusing explanation of why Gen Ys are like they are – could help other generations to understand 😉


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