Employees in their 20s often find themselves working side-by-side with people old enough to be their parents and grandparents. Misunderstandings, lapses in communication, and other symptoms of the workplace generation gap are bound to happen.
Here are examples of four classic challenging scenarios that arise, along with some effective ways younger, less experienced employees can get along with older co-workers–and foster peaceful coexistence and camaraderie in the process.
As the young newbie in the office, you’re finding it hard to “break in” to the old girls’ club. They huddle, make decisions, and even go out to lunch together–all without you. Should you confront them, or will that just make it worse?
Solution: Tackle the group members one at a time. Invite the most approachable member of the group to meet for coffee before work one day. If that succeeds, invite another member for lunch. You may discover that the next time the gals get together, you’ll be included.
Lesson: Rather than confronting an entrenched tradition head-on, divide and conquer. Patience is a virtue, and change doesn’t happen overnight.
A well-respected senior at the company gives slow, plodding, roundabout instructions to your team, and you’re pretty sure there’s a faster way and better way to do the task. Should you suggest a more efficient alternative, or is that presumptuous?
Solution: Go ahead and do it his way–you need him on your side. But once the task is finished and you’ve analyzed the entire process, ask to meet with him so you can share your idea. After he sees what a diligent worker and team player you are, he’ll be more open to hearing about the app you know about that will help the team do it in half the time.
Lesson: Sometimes it’s more important to let an older co-worker save face than to do things your way. Because you demonstrated respect, he may consult you for ideas next time around.
The elderly vice president is fond of standing by your desk and rambling on and on about the pre-computer days, while you’re trying to get work done. Should you interrupt him or politely excuse yourself?
Solution: Hear him out. Old-timers make great allies and mentors, which can benefit your new career. One subtle way to let him know you have to get back to work is to say, “I’d love to hear more about those classic ads we used to run. Some time when I’m not on such a killer deadline, could you maybe show some of them to me? I think we could adapt them for social media.”
Lesson: Elderly co-workers can be valuable fonts of knowledge. Be respectful and you might just learn something.
Your boss gives you assignments that are boring and too easy. You don’t want to seem impatient or ungrateful. Will she think you’re an upstart if you complain?
Solution: Do the work efficiently. Once you’ve finished in an hour what she figured would take you all day, knock on her door and say something like, “Hi, do you have a minute? I’ve completed the job, and I’d be happy to tackle something that’s really challenging or take on something you’ve dreaded getting started on.”
Lesson: By showing you boss that you’re helpful and self-motivated, she will probably keep you in mind for future projects.
This is a guest post.
This post was originally published at an earlier date.
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