How to Play Together in Work's Multi-Generational Sandbox

A professional guide to the personalities and passions of the different generations at work.

by Caroline Dowd-Higgins • More.com Member { View Profile }
Caroline Dowd-Higgins is the author of "This Is Not the Career I Ordered" and maintains the career reinvention blog of the same name.

· Although you dislike rigid work environments, know that the Baby Boomers before you are accustomed to this culture so be solution providers and creative innovators at work to showcase your value add.

· Manage up consistently so your boss and his/her boss know what you are accomplishing on the job. Advancement isn’t automatic — you must earn it and sometimes even ask for it.

· Be ready to throw the ladder down to the up-and-coming Millennials as they enter the workforce at a rapid pace, and they will be your colleagues sooner than later. Serve as a mentor/sponsor and pay-it-forward to the next generation as you move into leadership roles.

· Even though you have been trained to work autonomously, know the importance of team building and collaboration. The current day work environment supports this model and you need to get onboard.

· Don’t let the Baby Boomers retire before you have learned everything you can from them. This generational wisdom is leaving the workforce in droves and their expertise should be cherished.

· The Baby Boomers also have golden rolodexes with valuable relationships so be sure to steward these networking opportunities before it’s too late.

Baby Boomers born since 1943.  Known as the post-World War II babies, this generation is just now hitting retirement age. The first generation to be raised with television, they were considered technology advanced in their youth. Described as social and political rabble-rousers, the Boomers came of age during the Civil Rights movement, the anti-war demonstration era of Vietnam, and a sexual revolution that accompanied the popularity of rock 'n’ roll.

Boomers are not all retiring in their 60’s, and many have experienced entrepreneurial success due to their connection and wealth. Boomer career success was demonstrated by trying new things and an ability to bob and weave during times of economic fluctuation.

Work centric, the Boomers are extremely hard working and motivated by rank, wealth, and prestige. They invented "keeping up with the Jones’" and defined their generation by professional accomplishments and long work hours. Commitment and loyalty to their company was demonstrated even if that required obligatory face time.

Goal oriented and competitive, Boomers are confident and ready to challenge well-established practices to make a better mousetrap. Since their companies did extend loyalty to employees they believe in the hierarchical ladder and earning opportunities for advancement within a single organization. The concept of job flexibility and working from home is foreign to them since they were raised to believe that work should be done at the workplace.

Baby Boomer Advice for Workplace Détente

· While the whippersnapper Millennials may seem too green to be worth your time, they are ripe with opportunities for reverse mentorship. Not only are they part of the workplace succession plan, they can set up your new smart phone in minutes so you don’t need to watch the online tutorial.

· You are a generation of consummate communicators and relationship builders. This technique does not have to die with the use of technology. Share your network cultivation and stewardship expertise with Gen X and Y and feel comforted that your cherished relationships can live on if you train others in this important skill.

· Since you need open lines of communication, ask for it beyond the calendared performance reviews. Even if you are in a leadership role, managing up is a technique you should utilize.

· Lack of employee engagement is the number one reason for dissatisfied workers today. Recognize that the younger generations thrive on feedback and create a culture where achievement is rewarded and recognized. Set clear expectations and accountability measures and consider mentor programs to pair younger employees with more seasoned pros to mold and guide the next generation to succeed.

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