Excerpted from a Mondaq blog by Marilyn G. Moran

The Super Bowl halftime show was viewed by over 29 million households and featured a lineup of 90’s hip-hop royalty, including Dr. Dre, Snoop Dogg, Mary J. Blige and Eminem. Soon after the show aired, Facebook and Twitter feeds began filling up with comments about whether the show was pure Nirvana (pardon the pun) or more akin to Nine Inch Nails on a chalkboard (I can’t help myself).

The 60-plus set did not think the halftime show was groovy, while many Millennials were gettin’ jiggy with it. As a member of Generation X, I thought the Boomers and Millennials should stop spazzing and just take a chill pill.

After all, most of the performers are Gen Xers, not Millennials, and the halftime show wasn’t half as rad as previous shows performed by the righteous likes of Prince and Bon Jovi. For their part, young members of Generation Z did not spill the tea, perhaps because they do not stan the music of their parents and considered it a bit basic.

Joking aside, the stark differences between generations are not isolated to social media squabbles over music. These generational differences can also create conflicts in the workplace.

The modern workforce is composed of four generations: Baby Boomers (1946–1964), Generation X (1965–1980), Millennials (1981–2000) and Generation Z (2001–2020). Each generation has their own expectations on how they see the world and the role work plays in their lives. Employers need to understand these differences to create a thriving workplace and avoid miscommunication, particularly in regard to technology, environment and benefits.

The most obvious example of generational differences involves technology. Millennials and Generation Z grew up with electronics and social media. As a result, they are more comfortable using technology. Baby Boomers and Generation X are accustomed to using more traditional kinds of communications and may prefer face-to-face interactions to texting and instant messaging.

Work Environment
Boomers and Gen Xers are generally considered more loyal and trusting of authority; more willing to work long hours; and more desirous of titles and other forms of external recognition. In contrast, Millennials and Gen Z, who were raised during economically turbulent times marked by recessions are less likely to sacrifice a life balance to advance their careers.

Millennials crave autonomy and expect their work to align with their passions. Consequently, they are more likely to push back on workplace rules and expect greater accountability from managers. Likewise, employees from younger generations may also demand more flexibility with schedules, assignments and working remotely.

Older employees are generally more interested in healthcare benefits and 401(k) matching funds versus younger employees, who emphasize stock options, assistance with student debt and continued education.

Bridging the Generational Gap
Every person is different, and many employees defy generalizations. Hopefully, employees of all generations share the common goals of achievement and organizational success. To meet these goals, employers should use a variety of communication methods and seek employee input. A flexible range of benefits will appeal to the needs of a diverse workforce.

Look for opportunities to pair workers from different generations on teams and in mentor-mentee relationships so they can learn from each other. By understanding employees’ varying viewpoints and providing equal opportunities regardless of age, employers can sustain a harmonious work environment that transcends generations.

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