Everyone is facing similar challenges that 2020 has brought on, but they are all handling it differently. Each generation is in a different emotional position, and leaders need to acknowledge each individual struggle equally. However, despite the generational gap in handling obstacles, it is possible to all come together over a commonality: everyone wants to feel cared about.
By bridging these gaps in the workplace through emotional expression, connection, and awareness, people will feel more cared for and more inclined to offer a helping hand to their peers, no matter their generation. Organizations need to take advantage of all their peoples’ strengths and weaknesses and come together as a team to leverage each other’s talents with the new direction the workforce is headed in.
Bridging the Gap with Emotional Intelligence
The main generations we see in today’s workplace are Baby Boomers, Generation X, Millennials, and now Generation Z. This eclectic generational mix in the workforce will undeniably lead to conflicts and misunderstandings. A one-size-fits-all culture is one of the past, and organizations need to learn to take into account the different personalities, needs, skills, and challenges each individual can face, while delivering leadership in the same manner to everyone – respectfully.
Each generation typically has their own working style. In general, Baby Boomers are often considered the workaholic generation, Generation Xers want flexibility and autonomy, Millennials want to make an impact and have a purpose, and Gen Zers prefer self-directed and independent learning. Despite these different work expectations, all employees have three core human needs: to survive, belong, and become. Just like Maslow’s Hierarchy of Needs, once people surpass the need for food and water, they are looking to be accepted for who they are, and succeed at becoming their best selves.
Emotionally intelligent leaders make sure their people aren’t worried about the food and water needs, and take the money worries off the table. When you pay an employee what they think they are worth, they will rise to that. They focus on contributing to something greater than themselves. Emotionally intelligent leaders create a sense of community and connection for their staff. They appreciate their efforts and talents, and provide them work that fulfills them and helps them realize their full potential.
Bringing Strengths to the Table
Leveraging a team’s strengths is essential in bridging the gap between the generations, especially amidst a world-wide shift in the workforce. With the new challenges 2020 has brought on, some generations are more resilient to change than others. Emotional Resiliency indicates how much hardship you can deal with without experiencing stress. In other words, people with high “emotional resilience” are better able to roll with the punches and lead happy healthy lives despite the inevitable hardships and challenges they may be facing.
Generation Z is now entering the workforce, and are facing a lot of instability and uncertainty head-on. With Gen Zer’s need for stability, they are most likely not managing the stressors that come with the current work environment. However, Gen Xers and Baby Boomers have experienced many booms and busts of the economy and value optimism and rebellion in times of despair. In fact, a University of British Columbia study found older generations to be less stressed and threatened by the pandemic and experienced better emotional well-being than other generations. Instead of leaving Generation Z in the dust, this provides a teaching opportunity for the older generation to step up to the plate and support Gen Zers in developing a sense of grit and resilience.
Although younger generations may not be as strong in stress management, they make up for it in their tech-savviness and entrepreneurial spirit. Older generations can learn from Gen Zers and their tech knowledge, reaching out for support during this huge shift to remote work. Gen Zers also prefer independent learning, so the shift to a virtual environment has given them the opportunity to work in a self-directed manner. However, Baby-Boomers prefer face to face collaboration and are missing social interaction. If both generations can work together to create a virtual work environment that allows for self-directed work, an engaging and collaborative face-to-face experience, there will be less resentment between the communication preferences.
Here are some tips on how to bridge the gap and leverage strengths within different generations:
1. Mentor Opportunities
Pairing up younger workers with more seasoned employees in a mentoring format could form a mutually beneficial relationship. Younger workers could share their knowledge of technology and the different opportunities for collaboration in a remote work environment. Whereas, more experienced employees could share their knowledge on stress management, and how they are navigating through all the new challenges the pandemic has brought into the workplace. By connecting different generations, it increases cooperation and leverages the different skill sets to solve problems quickly and effectively.
2. Conflict Management
Leaders need to create a process for conflict management and address it immediately. With the large age gaps within workplaces, there are bound to be misunderstandings. It is important to address conflict head-on and act as a mediator, letting each employee voice their side of the story. It is important to acknowledge both sides and come up with a strategy to leverage both generational perspectives and avoid the recurrence of the same issue.
3. Hire Positive Workers
Leaders can train any skill to new hires, but it is near impossible to change their negative attitude. It is important that leaders in charge of the hiring process, like HR departments, identify and profile the behavior of a positive worker, which can be done through EQ Assessments. Recruiting positive workers will bring a level of energy to the team to increase productivity and optimism into the culture – which is needed now more than ever!
Focus on What Matters
Accommodating the needs of multiple generations can pose a difficult task, so it is helpful for leaders to focus on what is constant in the workplace. Core values can act as an anchor amidst a storm. Make sure there is a reason people have chosen to become a part of the team and culture, generations aside.
Focus on the positive commonalities of the workplace culture prior to the global pandemic, and otherworldly divides. If the team was doing weekly lunches together, then bring that to the table virtually. If the organization values connection, collaboration, and communication, then leaders need to find a way to continuously support these values despite the changing conditions.
A team comes together to achieve a common goal, despite their differences. It is important to emulate the same culture throughout all generations, to bring them on the same page beyond their personality differences. When a team is working together on a common goal and has fostered a culture of support, care, and empathy, they will naturally leverage each other’s strengths and come together in the end.
To learn more about how to bridge the gap between generations, check out our Using EI to Lead Multigenerational Workers Keynote or our Leading a Multigenerational Workforce Workshop. Look out for our next blog on managing the future workforce – Hiring for the Future Using Emotional Intelligence!