Working as a team can be tricky. The objective is to come to an agreement, but if you come to that agreement too quickly, it may mean you didn’t spend enough time considering other options. On the flip side, if you spend too much time arguing about which direction to go, you may end up going nowhere.
So how do you build a “dream team”? With members who maximize the quality of their solutions by challenging each other to dig deeper, but who don’t diminish productivity by trying to bury each other’s viewpoints? Finding the right balance of personalities and perspectives can feel a lot like trying to solve a Rubik’s cube, but one important factor to consider is generational diversity.
An all-ages show
Dennis Kennedy, founder and CEO of the National Diversity Council, says, "Managing generational diversity is key for organizations to gain a competitive advantage and make a positive impact on employee morale, productivity, and retention.”
That sounds good on paper, but if you’re a Millennial working in a generationally-diverse environment, you know that it isn’t always easy to navigate. In a study by Robert Half, the top three areas in which employees from different generations appeared to vary were communication skills, adaptability to change, and (not surprisingly) technology, which heavily affects the other two sides of the triangle.
In many ways, professional communication has become a lot less formal than it was when our parents were beginning their careers. Part of it has to do with a shift toward more relaxed language (both verbal and body language). Part of it is the trend toward a leadership style that’s more “coach” or “mentor” and less “boss.” And part of it, of course (because everything points back to technology) is that the modes of communication we use have changed. Face-to-face meetings and even phone calls have dwindled in favor of email, texting, and collaboration hubs. If you’ve had a smart phone since high school, it probably feels very natural to interact this way, but your Baby Boomer colleagues may have some feelings about using something called “Slack” while they’re at work.
In many cases, modern communication is more convenient, efficient, and cost-effective, but there’s definitely something to be said for being in the same room with the people you’re talking to. A phone call has a different impact than a text message. Pressing a thumbtack through a note and into the cork of a physical bulletin board has a different impact than signing into Trello. Taking a client out for dinner and drinks has a different impact than closing a deal via Skype. So whatever your preferred approach to communication is, try to maintain a healthy respect for everyone else’s.
Just about everyone acknowledges that change is inevitable, but the pace of change can be more challenging for older generations than for younger ones. There’s a fluidity to the way we work now, an almost constantly shifting view of the horizon. The word “career” used to imply a long-term relationship with one or two companies over the course of your professional life, but that’s simply not the standard anymore. Now, the average person changes jobs 12 times during his or her career...and 44 million Americans report having a #sidehustle..
To someone who entered the workforce before the climate shifted, the new normal may be tough to get used to. The practice of switching companies, changing roles within a company, or having a side business could look like a lack of commitment on the part of younger employees, even though that’s not typically the case at all. It’s important to build a mutual understanding that there’s more than one way to work hard.
When your dad asks you to show him how to send a picture from his phone, or your crafty aunt wants you to help her sell her crocheted golf club covers online, you can usually get away with a few eye rolls. Maybe even an exasperated comment or two. But when your colleague asks you to show her where the “save” button is on Google Docs, or you have to tactfully remind your boss for the 100th time how to use the mute button so he can eat chips during conference calls, you probably need to respond a little more professionally.
Next time you’re feeling frustrated with a coworker who’s less than tech savvy, try to keep in mind that technology is kind of like language: if you’ve been exposed to it your entire life, it’s easy to pick up, but if you have to learn it as an adult, it’s a heck of a lot harder. Let’s be honest…a lot of us have downloaded the Duolingo app in a motivated moment, but far fewer of us are fluent in whatever second language we enthusiastically set out to learn. So be patient, and listen at least as much as you talk.
The beauty of working together
While working with people outside of your own age group isn’t without its potential frustrations, it’s a great way to ensure that whatever you’re working on gets looked at from lots of different angles. Your truth depends on where you’re standing in life, but if you and your collaborators are all standing in different places describing what you each see, the truth becomes a full circle instead of a tiny section of that circle’s circumference.
If everyone on your team is amazing at the same thing, you’ll be really good at solving one problem. If everyone on your team is amazing at something different, the sky’s the limit.
At Our Life Covered℠, we’re proud to have a team that’s multi-generational, multi-talented, and multi-tasking, but also 100% committed to the goal of creating a smart, simple life insurance shopping experience designed for women, by women.