Keys to Success in the Multi-Gen Workplace

by Sterling J. Scott, Marketing Communications Coordinator, MHI | @mhi_sterling

As a young professional chances are, you work in a multi-generational workplace. As a millennial, you were raised with computers and mobile technology; these things have helped shape your communication, decision-making, relationship-building, and the way you work. Success in the workplace is dependent on being able to manage each of those things well even with others who have different backgrounds and experiences. These vary greatly between generations.

MHI’s Morgan Cruz wrote a piece in June 2014 titled, How to Make Your Relationship with Your Boss Work for You as a follow-up to an MHI YPN webinar of the same title by Mary Schaefer, former HR manager, coach, trainer and consultant. There is another MHI YPN webinar called Workplace Generation Gap by corporate comedian Jeff Havens. The multi-generation workplace is a trending topic right now due to the emergence of Millennials in the workforce, the advancement of people from Generation X, and the many Baby Boomers beginning to retire. These groups are three of four commonly categorized generations. These are the groups as defined by the Duke University Personal Assistance Service:

Veterans / Matures (born between 1922-1943)

Baby Boomers (born between 1943-1960)

Generation X (born between 1961-1980)

Generation Y & Z / Millennials (born after 1980)

Most likely, you are working with many Baby Boomers and Generation X-ers. Here are a few tips that will help you better work with co-workers and supervisors from other generations, courtesy of Duke University:

Work Style
Baby Boomers like to “process, discuss and collaborate on various work projects or concerns” while Generation X prefers working independently

Professional / Personal Development
Baby Boomers “flourish in coaching and mentoring situations” while Generation X believes that employees and their bosses can learn from each another

Respect for Authority
Generation X “has respect for authority, but wants a less formalized relationship with authority” and prefers frequent feedback from authority figures

Generation X is usually great at multitasking

To be successful in your workplace, you should understand these dynamics and adapt to them. If your boss is a Baby Boomer, he or she might schedule lots of meetings and form lots of committees to make decisions and complete tasks, because of a strong preference for group work and collaboration. A boss from Generation X will probably expect you to prefer to work independently and may assign you projects while providing minimal input or guidance,

If your boss is from the Baby Boomer generation, he or she will most likely love to mentor and coach you and probably think you have the same level of appreciation for it. However, this same boss might not believe or understand the value of being able to learn from you as well.  You probably won’t experience this disconnect with a boss from Generation X.

If your boss is from Generation X, he or she will most likely prefer frequent feedback from authority and believe you prefer the same. The boss you believe is micromanaging might actually believe that you want them to. This same boss may assign you lots of projects to complete in a short amount of time because he or she might believe that you are great at multitasking and like to do so.

Understanding the differences in workplace preferences can be  key to success and advancement in your career.  Check out the following links for more information on working in the multigenerational workplace.

Duke University Personal Assistance Service

The multigenerational workplace: Today’s employers must manage a workforce that is a mixture of young and old – Denver Post

The Multigenerational Workforce – Boston College Center for Work & Family Executive Briefing Series

To connect with other young supply chain and material handling professionals, join MHI’s Young Professionals Network (YPN) and connect with MHI on FacebookTwitter, and LinkedIn.