How to Use Generational Differences in the Workplace to Your Advantage
Millennials face countless generational differences in the workplace. With conflicting opinions on topics like work schedules and dress code, millennials are guiding the workforce to a less tightly structured, increasingly social working environment. While collaborating alongside Gen Xers and baby boomers can merge innovation with seasoned experience, contrasting working styles and methods of communication can delay productivity. In addition to conflicting points of view, millennial professionals must also overcome the hurdles of generational stereotypes: millennials are workplace divas, they lack company loyalty, and they have an inflated sense of entitlement. So how do you combat these stereotypes at work? Furthermore, what can you do to strengthen your generational differences and provide value to your older peers?
Accentuate Positive Stereotypes
The stereotypes of millennials aren’t all negative; other generations view millennials as increasingly social, tech-savvy colleagues. Having been raised alongside rapidly evolving technology and communication methods, certain skills come naturally to millennials. Use this to your advantage by providing value to almost any department at your office. Here are a few examples of how you can add value to your current employer and gain the respect of your peers through your initiative:
- Are you great with social media? Ask your boss if you can help update, or create, a company LinkedIn page. Your coworkers may even require help updating their own, personal profiles.
- Does your company have a Twitter account? Ask if you can set one up and manage it. Track its traffic to show a positive return on investment for the company.
- Could your company benefit from using electronic signatures on contracts? Research different options available and present them to your manager with your recommendation of which one would work best. This will increase efficiency in your office.
Be a Life Learner
The millennial generation is the most educated of all time. The Pew Research Center states that 34 percent of millennials in the workforce carry a bachelor’s degree or higher, compared to 24 percent of baby boomers. Millennials also generally excel at learning new skills. This intense curiosity can sometimes be misinterpreted as self-centered rather than company-focused.
To turn this around, propose how you can be a long-term investment for your company. Your hunger for new skills can provide a positive return to your company’s work flow and corporate image. New skills may include learning design programs through the Adobe Creative Suite, taking an online course on social media or XML coding, or going through a sales or management training program. By showing your loyalty and vested interest in the company, you’ll most likely win the hearts of your peers and solidify your long-term ambitions.
Find a Communication Middle-Ground
Millennials would rather communicate in short bursts such as texts, Tweets, and instant messages. This can work really well at times, but in other situations, a phone call or face-to-face meeting will be most beneficial. This relaxed, generational communication style can sometimes be misinterpreted as disrespectful or even entitled. Be open to hearing feedback about how your coworkers, managers, and clients would like to engage with you. In some instances, you may have to adopt a more formal communication style. Be open to communicating in a variety of ways that work best for your team.
Research from the Brookings Institution projects that by 2025, millennials will represent 75 percent of the American working population. As time progresses, generational differences in the workplace will lean more in your favor. In the meantime, propel yourself forward by breaking down stereotypes, focusing on adding value to your company, and communicating in the manner that works best for all age brackets.