Gen Y and Gen X vs. Gen Z: Tips for maintaining workplace harmony

Gen Y and Gen X vs. Gen Z: Tips for maintaining workplace harmony

The New York Times published an article in October 2021 entitled ‘The 37-Year-Olds Are Afraid of the 23-Year-Olds Who Work for Them.’ A funny title, yes, but it reflects a moment of dramatic cultural change, as younger workers who have used technology almost since birth push back on the notion of sitting at a desk from 9-to-5 like their parents.  The importance of office face time was on shaky ground already before 2020, but the notion was tested even more when all office workers were effectively sent home until further notice during the pandemic–and most of them managed to get their work done just fine in their pajamas.

Now, as workers are slowly called back to work, “older” managers (in the case of the Times article, this means managers in their 30s and up) have to adjust to the demands of their younger workforce, particularly as the demand for labor is sky high and most companies can’t afford to lose a single person.

Workers in their 20s aren’t too shy to ask for meetings to be scheduled around their yoga classes, or days off for ‘mental health.’ In fact, YPulse, the leading market researcher for Millennials and Gen Z, reports that 28 percent of young workers are more likely to take a job because of the level of mental health support offered. These workers are all about work/life balance and being in supportive environments, and –unlike older workers– most of them aren’t afraid to discuss their mental health needs.

Workplace futurist and author Jacob Morgan has dedicated several books and entire TED talks to the future of work and leadership in this country. His infographic on the evolution of the employee has been widely shared online. So how can you find common ground in your workplace, and bridge the expectations of different ages of workers? Here are a few tips:

1) Re-examine your productivity metrics: Instead of looking at how much time your employees spend at work, consider looking at their output instead. Are projects finished on time? Are employees available for calls and meetings when necessary? If you put more of a premium on performance rather than face time, your youngest employees will feel like they have more control over how the work gets done.

2) Encourage “overcommunication” to help older and younger workers bridge the age gap: Schedule regular check-ins between mangers and direct reports. Both sides should communicate their preferences for how and when they like to work, and ways that they can compromise to accommodate each other’s needs. If a manager arrives early and likes a staff check-in first thing, but their younger employees prefer later start times and working into the evenings, then perhaps that staff meeting can be moved from 8 a.m. to 9 a.m. with little wear and tear on either side. These are small, but important victories for employees who value work/life balance more than any previous generation.

3) Use Predictive Index to identify commonalities within generational groups

Predictive Index (PI) can help you find common ground among your teams, and also help you to understand differences, so you can get ahead of potential conflicts. Use PI to understand the whole person who comes to work each day—regardless of their age. Share results among generations and lead honest discussions about their preferred work, collaboration and communication styles, and other strengths that you can harness to your advantage.