Three Ways To Use Generational Tension

Most employers experience tension between employee generations. They always have. This is by no means a new phenomenon.But once identified, areas of tension can be used for positive change.

Here are three ways to use the tension in a productive fashion:

1) De-risking vulnerability
Because generational tension often exists between people at different career stages it can erect barriers between organisational layers. If there's a pattern or intensity to where this barrier exists then consider whether that part of the organisation is particularly prone to the changes occurring in the new economy, such as digitisation, remote working etc. Once identified, then you can explore why this and develop scenarios that open up the hierarchy and encourages cross-generational enlightenment.

2) Challenging unconscious bias with live examples
Unconscious bias - the unintentional application of biased views when we make judgements or decisions - is a well documented leadership development problem. But leadership development, like everything else, is better learned through real life than lectures. Here you can deal with both challenges at once: show them it at work and help them navigate it. In an inter-generational context, Millennials are often charged with being "over emotional", "approval seeking", or “fickle" because of their approach to work and life. Instead of allowing that bias to remain because it's "different to my career experience", find and absorb alternative, more positive interpretations. A person with those aforementioned characteristics could equally be seen as "sensitive to customer needs", “keen to encourage others" and "adaptable to change".

3) Championing Your Non-conformists
“Millennials” and “Boomers” are merely broad definitions. Many people will be a blend of different definitions: some characteristics repeat themselves but become less sought after with seniority; like hunger for feedback. But some people are squarely outside the norm, and probably always have been. They are non-conformists. And non-conformists are not only a life source of innovation, they are often prophetic in their foresight and adaptability. But despite the great value they bring, the traditional corporate is very poor at encouraging non-conformists - if not downright ruinous. But the championship of non-conformists is one way the corporate will have to evolve to thrive. Why not start here?