Most of us assign a negative connotation to the term “generation gap.” It separates the young and old, the modern and the old-fashioned, and it serves to emphasize the often uncomfortable differences between people born many years apart. What if we turned things upside down and used the generation gap to embrace our differences and invite those older and younger than us to openly share their expertise and wisdom?
Baby boomers have plenty of wisdom to offer Generation Y, especially the skills and knowledge they developed in the years before computers, smart phones and the Internet. If someone suddenly unplugged Earth, Boomers would most definitely survive, and probably even thrive, while Gen Y would most likely feel utterly lost without the means to text, swipe and surf their way through the day.
Seriously, though, we’re wired to each other for the long haul, and Gen Y is the group who will keep things running. In addition to Gen Y’s technological prowess, Boomers should look to their younger colleagues for other reasons as well. Here are just a few of them:
Technology and Social Media Are Your Friends
Gen Y has grown up with ever-increasing technology and most have no concept of life without the Internet. They fully understand the various social media platforms, using them to enhance and often define their personal and professional lives. Forward-thinking companies know the importance of being open to new ideas and developments, and are looking to their Gen Y employees to bring them up to speed with technology and social media. The willingness to learn new things creates an open-minded work environment filled with less judgment and more inspiration.
Diversity Improves the Workplace
One noticeable difference between Boomers and Gen Y employees is that the Gen Y workers tend to be more comfortable with the many forms of diversity. More and more companies are striving for a more diverse workplace, and Boomers can learn a lot from Gen Y’s openness to and familiarity with economic, social, sexual, racial and cultural diversity. A company full of only one kind of person is only going to put out one kind of idea.
Take Risks and Be Brave
Gen Y workers seem to be more willing to give something a try and risk failure than their older counterparts. At first, this tendency may appear to be reckless and impulsive, but their mindset is that failure can be a learning experience. It’s okay to take a shot at something that may not succeed. Boomers also may notice that their younger colleagues are more outspoken and perhaps downright confrontational in the workplace. They’ve grown up in an environment where if one has a differing opinion, It is okay to be open and honest about conflict.
Always Have Confidence
To a surprising degree, Gen Y possesses a sense of idealism and a confidence about their potential. Boomers can be cynical and self-doubting at times, preventing them from achieving their true potential. While the younger generation may come across as too demanding of respect and naively overconfident, their ability to ask for and expect positive recognition is admirable.
There are so many things the different generations can learn from one another. When we’re open to new ideas and refuse to be intimidated or irritated by the generations above or below us, we build healthy professional relationships that benefit the whole company.
This guest post was provided by Erin Palmer, a proud member of Gen Y who works for Bisk Education. Erin works with Villanova University’s HR certification courses. For additional articles on various human resources topics, such as an HR generalist job description, check out Villanova’s resource center. Erin can be reached on Twitter @Erin_E_Palmer.