How to Manage a Multi-Generational Team (2023)

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A few weeks ago, my dad and I had a discussion about respect in the workplace. We talked about how difficult it is to manage across generations when you are much older or younger than your team.

My dad didn’t understand why his direct reports responded to his voicemails with emails instead of calling him back, whereas I didn’t understand his preference for phone calls when the same information could be communicated via text.

Our disagreement shed light on a challenge that is common in today’s workforce: learning how to collaborate with and appreciate the unique preferences, habits, and behaviors of colleagues who grew up in different times than ourselves.

The sad truth is that age gaps between managers (like my dad) and their team members (like me) can hinder our mutual respect for one another.

When we fundamentally can’t relate to someone due to generational gaps, we often resort to using harmful stereotypes and blame solvable problems on each other instead of working to understand — and value — the differences that distance us. Ourjob performance and productivityare negatively impacted as a result.

To get guidance around how we can move past this and realize the many benefits of cross-generational work, I spoke with Professor Megan Gerhardt, director of leadership development at Miami University’s Farmer School of Business and author of Gentelligence.

1) Challenge harmful stereotypes.

For the first time in modern history, there are five generations in the workforce. Apparently, we each exhibit unique personality traits and values.

These generalizations are, for the most part, problematic. Gerhardt told me the first step to overcoming age bias, and developing a mutual respect for one another, is to debunk them.

(Video) Navigating the Multigenerational Workplace | Leah Georges | TEDxCreightonU

“Many of the generational conversations in the news today rely on false stereotypes and clickbait headlines, rather than taking the time to understand the important differences that are a part of our generational identities,” Gerhardt said. When we assign negative or overarching characteristics to each group, we imply that their values, beliefs, and goals are fundamentally flawed.

In reality, what we value as individuals is often influenced by events completely out of our control, dictated by our experiences at the beginnings of our lives and our careers. Each generation entered the workforce under certain conditions, which ultimately helped to shape our sense of purpose, our preferences, and our drivers for success.

For example, a recent college graduate, who started their first job during the pandemic and is accustomed to a remote setup, might put a high value on flexible work and prefer to communicate digitally. On the other hand, someone who entered the workforce in 2008, during the Great Recession, might value job security and routine, and prefer to work a predictable nine-to-five schedule, five days a week.

The problem is that age stereotypes go a step too far in assuming that every person has reacted to the milestones of their generation in the same ways. They are assumptions, often false, and can make workers feel siloed and judged before they even step into the office. This, in turn, affects performance.A 2017 study published by the NIH found that, “employees threatened by age-based stereotypes concerning work performance are less able to commit to their current job, less oriented toward long-term professional goals, and are ultimately less adjusted psychologically.”

While Gerhardt said that we should avoid making assumptions about people based solely on their age, there is value in educating ourselves on the realities different generations have faced throughout their careers. Understanding these nuances is essential to accepting one another — and is even more important for those in managerial roles (like my dad) and those who strive to be leaders one day (like me).

2) Communicate your preferences openly.

“Just as we wouldn’t expect our actions to be accurately understood or universally agreed with when we travel to other places,” Gerhardt said, “we shouldn’t expect our reasons for approaching our work in particular ways to be clear to people who have grown up and started their professional lives at different points in time.”

Instead, we should be talking openly to one another about our preferences, particularly when it comes to methods of communication. Managers of multiple generations can set the example by helping their team members find ways to clearly communicate with each other. If you have direct reports who are both older and younger than you, ask your employees what kind of interactions feel most comfortable to them.

Take me and my dad: He has decades of work experience under his belt and understands that talking to customers and colleagues on the phone and meeting with them in-person is important when building personable, long-lasting relationships. I, however, spent my formative years communicating through text messages and emails. I find the format quicker and more efficient (similar to65%of Generation Z).

Just as there is no right or wrong work style, there is no right or wrong method of communication. Show your direct reports that you are willing to step out of you comfort zone and meet them halfway. Compromise is key to finding a non-judgmental middle ground,so try to think of your differences as learning opportunities.

For example, you might switch between methods of communication depending on the goal of the conversation. Exchange emails for a faster, more efficient approach, but meet face-to-face when the conversation calls for added intimacy and relationship-building.

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(Video) Managing Multicultural and Multigenerational Teams
(Video) Tero Tip: Managing a multigenerational team

3) Respect boundaries.

A wider representation of age groups at work has introduced new beliefs and values into the office. Taboo topics of the past, like diversity and inclusion, mental health, and gender roles, are becoming widely discussedin professional settings.

Just like an individual’s race, ethnicity, gender, sex, sexual orientation, religion, dis/ability, class, personality, and educational background will impact how comfortable they are talking about these topics at work, so will their age and their upbringing.

Gerhardt explained that research has shownyounger generations tend to be more progressive about social issues, as well as more comfortable talking about topics that were previously considered taboo in the workplace.” She told me, “The willingness of younger employees to accept and normalize the discussion of these important topics is resulting in a decrease in the stigma that has traditionally surrounded talking about them at work.”

It’s also important to keep in mind that how your employees feel about these topics is going to vary.

It’s not necessary for every person to agree, but it is important for them to understand why the organization places a high value on the issues being discussed.

Particularly when it comes to race and gender, one social trends report from Pew Research conducted in 2020 shows that there are some measurable patterns around the beliefs different generations hold in the U.S. “When it comes to race relations,” the report states, “Gen Zers and millennials are about equally likely to say that Blacks are treated less fairly than whites in this country. Roughly two-thirds of Gen Zers and millennials say this, compared with about half of Gen Xers and boomers and smaller shares among The Silent Generation.”

Additionally, according to the same report, “About six in 10 Gen Zers (59%) say forms or online profiles should include additional gender options, compared with half of millennials, about four in 10 Gen Xers and boomers (40% and 37%, respectively), and roughly a third of those in The Silent Generation (32%).”

The most challenging feat you may face as a manager of both older and younger employees will involve respecting the varied boundaries of each of your team members while upholding your own set of values, boundaries, and ground rules.

In order to create the kind of environment in which every person feels willing to ask for help, share their best ideas, and take risks, Gerhardt said you need to prioritize psychological safety.“People come to these conversations with different experiences and varying levels of willingness to engage,” she told me. “The role of the manager is to provide ongoing opportunities to have these discussions — not to force people to a particular point of view or to check a box.”

She added, “When navigating these kinds of challenging topics, it can be helpful for managers to ground the conversation in a discussion of how the issues are relevant to the organization’s values and overall mission.”

For example, when it comes to diversity and inclusion, there are important legal, moral, and strategicperspectives to consider. It’s not necessary for every person in the organization to agree or share the same priorities, but it is important for them to understand why the organization places a high value on the issues being discussed.

(Video) How to Manage 5 Generations of Workers | Brian Tracy

Gerhardt suggested facilitating discussions about the shared norms that work best for your team — rather than defaulting to the way things have always been done or favoring the preferences of one age group over another. You can also try to create change at the organizational level by talking to your employer about developing initiatives that encourage both older and younger generations to connect and share their expertise, such as mutual mentoring programs.

4) Don’t play favorites.

Finally, to create a culture in which people of all ages can be vulnerable and learn from one another, Gerhardt advised that managers create an inclusive decision-making process that encourages open dialogue.

During meetings, go the extra mile to make sure every voice is heard and considered. While this is typically a good practice, those leading multi-generational teams may face unique challenges. For instance, one study of more than 6,000 millennials revealed that 50% of participants questioned their capacity for success in the workplace, making them twice as worried about their skillsets than older generations.

In my experience, these fears can result in the desire to prove ourselves, especially in group settings. Myself and my peers often share our opinions and perspectives without necessarily being asked to. I have also seen our desire to be heard misinterpreted as arrogance by more seasoned workers and managers. Members of older generations are sometimes quick to overlook us, citing our lack of expertise.

Instead of perpetuating an “us versus them” dynamic at work, let’s change the narrative moving forward.

If you notice these patterns unfolding in your own meeting, or you notice yourself enacting these biases, change your approach. The next time you become frustrated with your younger employees for being outspoken, catch yourself. Rather than shutting them down, give them space to respectfully demonstrate their abilities by asking questions and encouraging them to weigh in. Likewise, if an older worker is quick to dismiss a younger team member, address it by suggesting the younger team member speak up in the moment. For example, you might say, “Michelle, did you have an idea you wanted to add?”

Follow up with the older team member privately and remind them that even if someone has less experience, their insights are welcome and valuable. This advice goes both ways. If you see a younger team member making assumptions about their more seasoned colleague, ask them to change their behavior.Remind your team that diversity of thought helps increase the scale of new insights and allows organizations to make better decisions and complete tasks more successfully.

“When we move away from the mindset that generational interactions are a win-lose proposition, the possibility emerges that intergenerational collaborations can result in greater learning and success for all involved,” Gerhardt said.“Every generation has something to teach and something to learn. We all have experiences and knowledge to share.”

Instead of perpetuating an “us versus them” dynamic at work, let’s change the narrative moving forward.

There are ways to bridge the generational gap.It begins with communication, humility, and a deeper curiosity about the strengths and limitations of our team members and ourselves. It begins with the acceptance that we are fundamentally different people with equally valuable insights to offer.

It ends with respect and understanding. It ends with progress.


How to Manage a Multi-Generational Team? ›

Successful multi-generational teams identify, value and build on one another's skills and experiences. This focus on individual strengths, rather than on generational differences, is a key part of thriving in the modern workplace.

What is a key to success for multi generational teams? ›

Successful multi-generational teams identify, value and build on one another's skills and experiences. This focus on individual strengths, rather than on generational differences, is a key part of thriving in the modern workplace.

What is the best way to manage different generations in the workplace? ›

Managing generational diversity in the workplace
  1. Avoid generational stereotyping. ...
  2. Encourage hybrid work environments. ...
  3. Knowledge sharing across the ages. ...
  4. Use company values to unify your team. ...
  5. Organise team-building exercises. ...
  6. 50 years in the making.
Sep 6, 2022

How five generations can effectively work together? ›

The Johnsons offer the following six tips:
  • Understand work styles. ...
  • Consider generational values. ...
  • Share perceptions. ...
  • Find a generationally appropriate fix. ...
  • Find commonality. ...
  • Learn from each other.

How do you motivate a multigenerational workforce? ›

To better motivate them, give Xers time to invest in their personal lives. Help them streamline their work and implement tools and processes so they can be uber efficient. Cut back on extraneous meetings, and let them get their job done.

How do you manage 4 generations in the workplace? ›

How to Manage 4 Generations in the Workplace
  1. Understand the differences between the generations.
  2. Establish workplace respect.
  3. Give them a reason to love their job.
  4. Share the knowledge.
  5. Approach people differently.
  6. Find a common denominator.
  7. Avoid stereotypes.
Mar 4, 2019

How do you create harmony between generations at work? ›

The key to creating generational harmony is to understand and accept each other's differences. Help motivate each generation based on their unique working styles. The more people understand each other, the better they will work together. Encourage your multi-generational employees to get to know one another.

How do you engage and motivate multiple generations? ›

Here are four ways to improve communication and leverage the power of your multi-generational workforce:
  1. Avoid age stereotypes and labels. ...
  2. Manage to the unique strengths and needs of each generation. ...
  3. Support learning and career development across all age groups. ...
  4. Build a strong multi-generational work group.
Jan 11, 2018

What are three keys to building successful teams? ›

How to build an effective team
  • Set SMART goals. ...
  • Perform well-defined roles. ...
  • Experiment regularly. ...
  • Embrace diversity. ...
  • Share a common culture. ...
  • Be accountable to the team. ...
  • Communicate effectively. ...
  • Welcome strong leadership.
Feb 28, 2023

How can a manager take steps to reduce conflict in multi generational workplaces? ›

Shaw has developed a five-part process to help resolve these differences:
  1. Acknowledge. Talk about generational differences. ...
  2. Appreciate. Focus on the "why," not the "what," and the common needs. ...
  3. Flex. Agree on how to accommodate different approaches.
  4. Leverage. Maximize the strengths of each generation. ...
  5. Resolve.

How do you communicate across 5 generations in the workforce effectively? ›

How to improve communication between generations in the workplace
  1. Set expectations regarding workplace culture and behavior.
  2. Use different types of communication.
  3. Personalize your approach.
  4. Understand differences in values and motivations.
  5. Ask, don't assume.
  6. Remove barriers to communication.
  7. Be willing to teach and be taught.
Feb 15, 2022

How do you manage millennials and Gen Z at work? ›

Photos courtesy of the individual members.
  1. Encourage Innovation And Work-Life Balance. ...
  2. Lead By Example. ...
  3. Understand Their Needs. ...
  4. Provide Growth Opportunities. ...
  5. Leverage Gen-Z's Desire For Change. ...
  6. Focus On The Individual. ...
  7. Be Open To Learning From Them. ...
  8. Walk The Culture Talk.
Jan 17, 2023

How do you bridge generational differences in the workplace? ›

How you can bridge the generation gaps at work
  1. Be self-aware. Pay attention to your own beliefs and values. ...
  2. Keep an open mind. Challenge your assumptions. ...
  3. Focus on the goal. ...
  4. Value diversity. ...
  5. Support and learn from each other. ...
  6. Discover common interests.

What is the 5 generation rule? ›

This is the five-generation rule. “How a parent raises their child — the love they give, the values they teach, the emotional environment they offer, the education they provide — influences not only their children but the four generations to follow, either for good or evil.”

How do you manage Gen Z employees? ›

For Gen Z, "it's really important to respect people's boundaries," Kaneshina told Insider. For example, she said, managers should schedule meetings during the workday, not later, and they shouldn't email or Slack their team members outside of those hours. If they do, they shouldn't be "expecting an immediate response."

What leadership strategies would you recommend to effectively lead a multigenerational workforce? ›

Avoid assumptions and generalisations; don't separate your Gen X employees from your Gen Zs. Instead, make the most of the skills, qualities, and attributes each different age group can bring into your workplace. Acknowledge the differences and embrace them for the overall benefit of the organisation.

What is the main issue when two different generations work together? ›

Stereotyping. In a workplace where people of different generations work together, there is a chance for conflict due to the attitudes, values and beliefs of the different age groups. As a result, stereotypes are common. For example, older workers may label younger workers as lazy or lacking in respect for authority.

How to embrace the challenges of a multigenerational workplace? ›

These three tactics can help you overcome common multigenerational workplace challenges and ensure all your employees feel valued, empowered and invested in.
  1. Prioritize flexibility. ...
  2. Dispel generational stereotypes. ...
  3. Encourage cross-collaboration and mutual mentoring.

Which generation works the hardest? ›

According to a recent survey of 1,300 managers, three out of four agree that Gen Z is harder to work with than other generations — so much so that 65% of employers said they have to fire them more often.

How do you communicate with all generations? ›

The following five strategies should help.
  1. Gain generational awareness. A general awareness of how each generation approaches communication is key to closing the communication gap. ...
  2. Defer to the person you're communicating with. ...
  3. Mirror the communication. ...
  4. Set communication expectations. ...
  5. Create a team communication agreement.
Jul 6, 2020

How do you bring harmony to a team? ›

9 Strategies That Help You Create a Harmonious Team
  1. Make Inclusivity Your Rule. ...
  2. Demonstrate Trust and Respect With Your Words and Actions. ...
  3. Create a Sense of Belonging. ...
  4. Understand that Respect Works Both Ways. ...
  5. Acknowledge Great Work. ...
  6. Establish an Open-Door Policy. ...
  7. Practice What You Preach. ...
  8. Don't Allow Unacceptable Behavior.
Oct 5, 2017

What are the 7 C's to build a winning team? ›

Here are the 7 Cs of successful team development:
  • Clarity. Clarity of purpose focuses a team on what to accomplish and how it fits within an organization's larger priorities. ...
  • Capability. ...
  • Collaboration. ...
  • Commitment. ...
  • Communication. ...
  • Continuous Improvement. ...
  • Creativity.
Jul 29, 2021

What are 7 team building strategies? ›

Seven Team Building Strategies You Can Try Today
  • Lead by Example.
  • Encourage Group Socialization.
  • Make Sure Every Voice Is Heard.
  • Keep an Open Line of Communication.
  • Foster Debate, Not Conflict.
  • Reward Good Work.
  • Invite Feedback.
Nov 24, 2022

What are the 5 ways of managing conflicts? ›

According to the Thomas-Kilmann Conflict Mode Instrument (TKI), used by human resource (HR) professionals around the world, there are five major styles of conflict management—collaborating, competing, avoiding, accommodating, and compromising.

What causes conflict between generations? ›

Some possible reasons for generational conflicts include differences in values, expectations, communication styles, beliefs about power structures or hierarchy, differences in approaches to work or even personality traits.

What is an example of a multi generational workforce? ›

A multigenerational workforce is one in which the employees span different generations. There are now five generations in the workforce simultaneously (Gen Z, millennials, Gen X, baby boomers and some members of the silent generation still working in their late 70s and early 80s) – a first in modern history.

How do you bridge the communication gap between generations? ›

Adapt to different ways of preferred communication.

For example, a baby boomer might prefer face-to-face meetings, but a millennial who works from home might opt for emails. To help bridge that communication gap, find a middle ground. In this case, you could try video calling or web conferencing.

What are the generational leadership styles? ›

Leadership Styles Overview

For purposes of this discussion, the five main leadership styles are: laissez-faire, autocratic, participative, transactional and transformational.

What do Gen Z want from managers? ›

Unique workplace expectations

While workplace culture, connection and transparency are still important to Gen Zers, they often share a strong desire to have more freedom and schedule flexibility than their older colleagues.

What management styles work best for managing millennials? ›

Millennials prefer a teamwork approach versus authoritative management. One of the most important values millennials hold is their need to build relationships. Millennial leaders prefer using a team approach versus an individualistic approach to achieve the goals and mission of the organization.

How do you motivate Gen Z employees? ›

What motivates Generation Z?
  1. Provide regular feedback. Gen Z-ers desire regular feedback on their performance. ...
  2. Promote interpersonal relationships. ...
  3. Implement a flexible work setting to reduce burnout. ...
  4. Provide career growth opportunities. ...
  5. Embrace social media and technology at the workplace. ...
  6. Promote diversity and inclusion.

How can a manager effectively manage conflict in a multi generational workplace? ›

Shaw has developed a five-part process to help resolve these differences:
  1. Acknowledge. Talk about generational differences. ...
  2. Appreciate. Focus on the "why," not the "what," and the common needs. ...
  3. Flex. Agree on how to accommodate different approaches.
  4. Leverage. Maximize the strengths of each generation. ...
  5. Resolve.

Why do you think it is important to effectively manage a multigenerational workforce? ›

For managers of multigenerational workforces, engaging all generations is essential — not just for employee satisfaction but also for the company's overall success. Diverse and inclusive workplaces have higher employee retention, higher revenue growth, and a greater readiness to innovate.

What are ways that a company can utilize a multigenerational team to their advantage? ›

How a Multigenerational Team can Help Businesses Grow
  • It fuels innovation. ...
  • It builds a strong talent pipeline. ...
  • It improves performance and boosts productivity. ...
  • It influences decision-making. ...
  • It helps reduce employee turnover. ...
  • It increases organizational resilience. ...
  • It increases sales and profitability.
Jan 31, 2022

How should a manager handle conflict between two employees? ›

When conflict arises in the workplace, consider following these steps:
  1. Understand the conflict. Encourage an open discussion between employees involved in the dispute. ...
  2. Find common ground. ...
  3. Brainstorm solutions. ...
  4. Agree on a plan of action. ...
  5. Follow up.
Aug 2, 2021

What three strategies can a manager use to resolve conflicts? ›

Here are five strategies to help managers effectively resolve conflicts with employees.
  • 1) Detach from Your Biases.
  • 2) Actively Listen.
  • 3) Practice Empathy.
  • 4) Focus on the Behavior.
  • 5) Know When to Involve HR.
Mar 27, 2018

What are the 4 positive leadership strategies? ›

There are four strategies of positive leadership: enabling positive climate, relationships, communication and meaning. They can be implemented by engaging in a Personal Management Interview (PMI) Program.

What are the five 5 characteristics that successful next generation leaders possess? ›

Top Five Attributes You Need To Look For In Next Generation...
  • Ability for leading change. ...
  • Leadership qualities: building bridges for collaboration. ...
  • Entrepreneurial thinking. ...
  • Emotional Intelligence. ...
  • Be innovative!
Feb 14, 2018

How do you engage employees of different generations? ›

  1. Take Simple Steps to Navigate Employee Engagement in a Multigenerational Work Environment. ...
  2. Explore a Spectrum of Communication Strategies. ...
  3. Encourage Mentoring and Collaborative Relationships. ...
  4. Create a Flexible Benefits Plan. ...
  5. Adjust Management Styles to Connect With Each Generation.
Aug 6, 2019


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