A workplace makes it possible for people from various backgrounds to interact and work together towards achieving a common goal. In the course of such interaction there is bound to be some confusion arising from the workers. Organized workplaces, whether small or large, have an administrative structure to ensure smooth running of their activities.
An example of such structured system is a public institution. Public institutions unlike private institutions follow strict laid down policies in the dissemination of their mandate to the public. This paper will discuss the concept of bridging the generation gap in the workplace in relation to a public institution that has all the present generations working in it.
The paper will discuss the various generations in such a workplace, their characteristics, how they view other generations and the source of conflict among the generations. Understanding of the characteristics of the various generations is vital for creation of generation bridges. The paper will also look into ways in which the different generations can be brought together to appreciate and harmoniously work with each other effectively for the realization of the organization’s objectives.
A generation is a group of people who are born in a given time period. The time is an undefined range that varies from a given society to another. In some societies, a generation difference is estimated in terms of the life span from when one is born to the time he/she has a family.
It is taken as the time period between when a female conceives her first child to the moment when the woman’s daughter gets her first born. This is however not a formal definition but a cultural opinion that has been overtaken by time, even though its aspect of time is still relevant. The human race has divided itself into groups based on the age factors (Dictionary 1).
Classification of the currently existing people according to age classifies four generations. The oldest generation is the baby boomers. This is the set born in the 1950’s. Another generation is the “generation X” which is a group of people who were born in the period averaging from 1965 to 1980.
The generation X grew up in a period of selfishness, an aspect that they never liked. The term generation “X” as used originated from Douglas’s book of an imaginary story of three people who isolated themselves from people in order to search for their identities. He visualized this group of people as underemployed, possessing excess education, self concealed and unstable (Jochim 1). Another generation is the generation “Y”, also referred as the Millennials.
This group consists of people born after the mid 1980’s. They are seen as the dominant workforce in workplaces at the present time. This young group is seen to be result oriented team workers who seek attention for their work and are well informed in technology. The group prefers flexible working conditions and environments a fact that is not well received by older generations (Kane 1).
The generation “Z”, is the group that follows generation “Y”. It consists of teenagers born as from the year 1994 to the year 2004. They are on the other hand seen as to have poor communication skills and are not good listeners. The group is perceived to be, in future, non team players in work places due to poor interpersonal skills. They are also referred to as the silent generation (Babyboomers 1).
3. The Generations at the Workplace
Hammil claimed that the current problems at the workplaces are not due to stiff competition or selfishness among people in senior positions but the bombardment of the four generations as they come together in the workplace. The generations pose different approaches to elements of “values, ideas, communication” (Hammil 1) and operation. The differences are also evident in “attitude, behavior, expectations, habits and motivational buttons” (Hammil 1).
The tension witnessed among the different generations is just a consequence of their age difference that has seen them develop different views and approach to problem and conflict resolution. The groups have different mentalities. While the “Y” generation wants instant appreciation for what they are doing, the baby boomer is interested in the productivity of a worker.
A “Y” generation worker will therefore be easily demoralized when he or she fails to get an instant motivation yet the baby boomer generation manager was just waiting for an appropriate time or the organization’s requirements and time for rewarding the performance. The “Y” generation for this case can see the older generations as being inconsiderate as well as being authoritative and ungrateful. The younger generation is also seen by the older generation as being self centered and lacking commitment (Hammil 1).
4. Bridging the Generational Gap
The four generations are different in many aspects, a fact that often bring conflicts in a workplace though they must all exist in the system. The need for continuity in the management and functions of an organization will require all the groups to gradually take senior positions in the management team. Any firm will require the baby boomer to provide experience and leadership just as it needs the “Y” generation to be prepared and shaped to a future leader in the organization.
Blair explained that understanding the behavior of people as well as the approach given to them is a key factor in managing them. A worker who feels that his position is understood and that he or she is respected will much easily respect the management’s directive than a worker who feels intimidated and unappreciated.
The management should put up measures to ensure that everyone is at peace with one another. This involves a series of measures undertaken by the management as well as the practices promoted among employees both within a generation as well as across generations. The top leadership should set policies that will regulate every worker’s behavior as per the way they relate to other workers.
Promotion of responsibility of an individual worker towards a mutual understanding is also significant. The administration on the other hand should motivate and reorganize every worker according to his or her psychological needs. The aim of the leadership must be to create an understanding among all workers (Blair 1).
Arbitration is also necessary when the gap brings a conflict. A top leader or even just a responsible party can bring together the conflicting individuals to explain why the misunderstanding is bound to occur and the importance of understanding and appreciating one another. Conflict management policies must be clearly instituted as well as developing interactive forums to bring the generations together in a more social way (Gravett and Throckmorton 274).
Familiarizing each of the generations with the aspects of the other generations is another step to bridging the gap. This could involve exposing the old generation to current technology and promoting the young generation to managerial positions (Rasmus and Salkowitz 159).
In my opinion, the generation gap disputes are a normal occurrence in a workplace. Every individual must reorganize the diversity of human nature, whether in the generational group or across the group. Every worker should respect each other’s opinion and under no circumstance should issues arising from work be personalized.
The administration should come up with policies to eliminate discrimination based on age and penalties on offences based on generation gaps. Bridging the gaps will enhance cooperation in the workplace, a fact that will enhance effectiveness of the workers hence productivity of the entity.
A generation defines people born in a given time period. There currently exist four generations namely the baby boomers, the X generation, the Y generation and the Z generation. Each of the generations has its features that are quite different from the other generations. This difference is normally a source of conflict among the generations especially due to misconceptions among members of a group over other generations.
The event of conflict among the generations in a workplace has a negative effect on the workers reducing their effectiveness. It can at times be spilt over to customers, a matter that will undermine the entity’s existence. Measures should be taken to ensure that these gaps are bridged to avoid such conflicts do not take place. The steps can be administrative in terms of setting up policies or individuals being urged and encouraged to have the responsibility to ensure peaceful working environment.
Babyboomers. Age group of generation Z. Babyboomers, 2011. Web. 20 February 2011.
Blair, Gerard. The Human Factor. University of Edinburg, n.d. Web. 20 February 2011.
Dictionary. Generation. Dictionary References, 2011. Web. 20 February 2011.
Gravett, Linda and Throckmorton, Robin. Bridging the generation gap. New York: Career Press, 2007. Print.
Hammil, Greg. (2011).Mixing and managing four generation of employees. FDU Magazine Online. Web. 20 February 2011
Jochim, Jennifer. Generation X defies definition. University of Nevada, 1997. Web. 20 February 2011
Kane, Sally. Generation Y. Web. Legal Careers, 2011. 20 February 2011
Rasmus, Daniel and Salkowitz, Rob. Listening to the Future: Why it’s Everybody’s Business. New York,NY: John Wiley and Sons, 2008.