How to Bridge the Generational Differences in Global Organizations

Currently, there is a wide gap between various generational cohorts in the workplace, and leaders […]

Currently, there is a wide gap between various generational cohorts in the workplace, and leaders find it highly challenging to bridge this gap. There are several reasons for this challenge including age, experience, ego, attitude, environment, perceptions and technology.   

Globally, Baby Boomers overcame several challenges. They witnessed wars and conflicts, and their mindsets are different. They are conventional, follow the rules of the game and expect others to follow them meticulously. However, they are not adequately equipped with the latest technology. Hence, their mindsets are different from Gen X, millennials and centennials. However, Gen X, sandwiched between the Baby Boomers and the millennials, is more flexible and ready to get along with older and younger generations.

Millennials are highly ambitious, intelligent and smart. They are technologically savvy and adaptable. They are often aggressive and break the rules. They don’t like to be micromanaged. They have a growth mindset. They appreciate employability, not employment, because they know that there is no permanent employment in this world. They are curious and question a lot. That is why they are also known as “Generation Why.” They are often rebellious and challenge the old school of thought.

Gen X and Baby Boomers are less comfortable with such behavior. They complain that there is no loyalty towards organizations in millennials and often feel that the latter are fickle-minded without any focus on their goals. However, when we look at the perspective of millennials, they are partially correct. As the world has changed, the millennials have changed. Their expectations and aspirations are different. They belong to a modern school of thought, which is quite relevant in the current global context. Hence, it is essential to empathize with millennials. Gen X and Baby Boomers must realize how they behaved towards their older generations when they were young.

Generational leadership style

Leading various generations requires a unique leadership style that can be called a generational leadership style. In a nutshell, this leadership style celebrates generational differences. It applies different strokes to different generations to get the tasks executed effectively in the workplace. It emphasizes a soft leadership style, which is a relationship-oriented leadership style. Hence, there is a strong need to explore generational leadership styles in the workplace.

Each generation brings specific skills, abilities and knowledge across the organizational table. Looking at their similarities rather than differences is beneficial for organizations. Instead of looking at their weaknesses, look at their strengths and appreciate them; leverage them to add value to organizations. They must be imparted with leadership-development training programs to emphasize the advantage of generational diversity. During the training programs, handpick the trainers from each generation to provide leadership training to all generations successfully.

The role of CEOs to bridge the generational differences

Millennials emphasize more on ends, not means. They look for outcomes, not actions. For them, how they achieved success doesn’t matter, but whether they achieved success or not does. This attitude and approach are not appreciated by the older generations, resulting in conflicts in values and ethics.

The CEOs and senior leaders must find ways to lead millennials, as their attitudes and expectations are different. They must foresee that millennials will dominate the global workforce. At times, the older generations feel insecure because of the ability, capability and adaptability of millennials. Of course, it is not a new phenomenon, as there is always a gap between various generations. However, the gap between millennials and other generations is wide due to rapid growth in technology, resulting in different values and core systems. There are conflicts between generations due to the ego and value system. CEOs and senior leaders must take serious note of the prevailing challenges to bridge the generational gap.

The role of global organizations to bridge the generational differences

Global organizations must make an effort to bridge the generational gap because employees across various generations will work in the same place for years to come. The differences are likely to aggravate, leading to conflicts. Senior leaders must address this challenge by adopting various strategies earnestly:

  • Change the perceptions and mindsets of managers and leaders in the workplace.
  • Encourage each generation to speak about its expectations and aspirations to enable other generations to understand and appreciate them.
  • Emphasize partnership rather than leadership and encourage all generations to share their experiences and expertise.
  • Encourage cross-generation interaction through leadership-development training programs regularly. Engage experts and trainers from each generation to connect with their counterparts, appreciating the similarities.
  • Create cross-generational teams and encourage reverse mentoring to enable the older generations to learn from millennials about technology. Encourage older generations to share their experiences and expertise with millennials through mentoring and coaching.
  • Organize activities in the workplace to connect various generations emotionally.
  • Build generational empathy to create generational compatibility.

Create generational compatibility

When different people work together, it is a great opportunity to learn. People think differently, act differently, do differently and deliver differently. For instance, millennials don’t like to be micromanaged. They want to explore independently by the trial-and-error method. They take the support of technology to explore and learn new things instantly. They consult older generations less and use technology more to find solutions.

Generational differences are not new to the world. They existed in the past, exist now and will exist in the future.

As there are often clashes between parents and children at home due to the generation gap, there are often clashes between various generations in the workplace, thus adversely affecting productivity and performance. As parents exercise restraint and patience with their children at home, the older generations must exercise restraint and patience with millennials. The older generations must empathize with millennials. They must think about how they behaved with their older generations when they were young like millennials. When older generations understand and empathize with millennials, most conflicts in the workplace can be eliminated.

The older generations must understand the current realities and mold themselves to collaborate with millennials. They must learn to embrace change to get along with millennials to create a healthy organizational culture to add value to all stakeholders. There must be coordinated efforts from all stakeholders, including educators, employers and older generations to bridge the gap between various generations to build global organizations.

There is no “one-size-fits-all” approach to overcome generational differences in the workplace. Leaders must apply different strokes to different generations. What worked in the past may not work now. There is an urgent need to embrace change by looking at various generations through a new lens to create generational compatibility. Look for similarities in generations to connect with them emotionally and celebrate generational differences to achieve organizational excellence and effectiveness.


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