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Can't We All Just Get Along?
Wednesday, December 28, 2016 6:45 AM

Kimberly Jones, AVP, HR Consulting, Credit Union Resources

I find myself wondering this very thing every time I hear a story or complaint about various generational groups in the workplace. Baby boomers think Millennials are lazy, selfish, and want “everything” without contributing “anything.” Millennials believe Baby Boomers are old, unwilling to adapt to change, and technologically un-savvy. Regardless of whether you agree or disagree with one or the other, one fact remains… we all must work together to be successful. 

Whether you’re a Baby Boomer, Gen X'er, Gen Y'er, Millennial, or Gen Z'er, we all possess valuable assets to contribute to the workplace. However, we’ve got to put our stereotypes and pre-conceived notions about the other on the back burner and focus on working together as a team.

But what’s the best way to accomplish that? Where do you start? How do you make the other understand where you’re coming from? These are all good and legitimate questions, and below are a few of the most common challenges and suggested ways of dealing with them.

Communication Style
There’s no doubt that the manner in which older and younger generations communicate is different. The older generation tends to prefer phone calls, emails, or face-to-face interaction; while the younger generation prefers text messaging, tweeting, or instant messaging. On top of that, the younger generation typically opts to communicate in 140 characters or less, which can definitely lead to breakdowns in communication.

It is recommended that leaders and employees make a serious effort to communicate with each other in the manner in which each person prefers. This requires some face-to-face teambuilding exercises so that everyone can learn about the others preferred communication style. By everyone making more of a concerted effort to understand each other, communication can improve.

Negative Stereotypes

Lazy. Entitled. Tech-obsessed. Difficult to train. Stubbornly set in their ways. These are just a few words used to describe either the older or younger generation. Overcoming existing stereotypes is difficult. We have to make a conscious effort to not judge a book by its cover. This is where management can play a huge role. When there’s dysfunction or misunderstandings in the workplace, management must lead and explain the value in all viewpoints, while ensuring those viewpoints are channeled in the proper way. They should provide perspective and ensure an understanding of the pros and cons associated with all viewpoints being expressed. 

Cultural Expectations
For the older generation, coming to work on time or early daily and staying until you’re told you can leave, has been their way of life. More often than not, they are accustomed to having their performance measured by the number of hours spent at work. However, the younger generation seems to put more emphasis on having a healthy work-life balance. That means, things such as telecommuting when possible and having flexibility in the workplace are valuable offerings.

So, what’s the best way to deal with differences in these cultural expectations, especially in an environment like a credit union’s where flexibility is sometimes difficult? There is no perfect answer but, if possible, allow for flexibility where you can. If a more relaxed dress code is an option, you may want to consider that. In the end, instead of saying, “We can’t do that,” find out what you "can do,” and make an effort to share that with your staff. Conducting an employee survey can help you determine what’s important to your employees.

Acknowledgement and recognition is something every employee wants, regardless of generation. I’ve often heard from the older generation that their paycheck is their recognition. However, today’s younger generation values receiving acknowledgement and recognition just as much as pay and work-life balance.

Employers should embrace our differences in the workplace, encourage a constructive engagement of ideas, and acknowledge the efforts of each team member, regardless of what their work style may be.

At the end of the day, the world is changing and so is the credit union environment. Every generation brings its own unique set of skills, talents, abilities, and cultural norms. If done correctly, all of these things can come together for the greater good of the organization. If not, you may find you're left behind and asking, "Why couldn’t we all just get along?"

_______________________________________
 
Outsourcing one or all of your HR functions is a cost-effective alternative to hiring an in-house HR professional or an effective way to enhance your current HR staff. Let
Credit Union Resources handle your HR needs, from management consulting and compliance assistance to policy development, maintenance, and employee issues. Designs are based on your needs and budget, beginning with an initial assessment of your current HR programs, policies, and procedures. Visit Credit Union Resources online here, or for additional information, please contact:

Susan Looney
469-385-6431
800-442-5762, ext. 6431
slooney@curesources.coop

Kim Jones
469-385-6432
800-442-5762, ext. 6432
kjones@curesources.coop

About Credit Union Resources
Credit Union Resources is a service corporation that provides industry-leading solutions and expertise to credit unions across the country. Credit Union Resources is a part of the Cornerstone Credit Union League, a regional trade association representing the interests of credit unions in Arkansas, Oklahoma, and Texas.