How could we NOT have friction between the generations we find in the workplace? It is well-documented we have different motivations, work styles, learning styles and leadership styles. We grew up in different places, cultures and families of origin. Yep, we’re different all right. We’re going to clash. After all, together we see the world with multiple lenses.
I figure we have a choice on how we deal with this. We can choose to judge the other generations as inferior or leverage the attributes and styles for the betterment of all. Me? I’m going with door number two.
You might ask the very important question, “Do I believe in unicorns too?” When I speak on this subject, sometimes I get folks that give me that crazy look that says I am trying to buck human nature. My viewpoint is unnatural. “We can’t leverage this and make it work!”
I prefer to side with Simon Sinek. This Columbia educator’s research of leaders yields what he calls the golden circle. Inside the circle is the magic word – WHY. Taking it in my direction on generational education, if we explain why the generations think the way they do, we can make more informed and better decisions, a major bugaboo about which I am reading more and more in the academic and consulting press. Don’t we make better decisions the more informed we are? YES. Yes, we do!
Unicorns, be damned. This information is more like a dragon. We need to control the burn, letting the friction light a fire. We have huge problems out there and multiple perspectives are required to fix the issues. Conflict theory teaches us that without any conflict, we have apathy. Too much conflict? We have dysfunction. Just the right amount of conflict and we end up with innovation. Generational conflict, if seen well, can be the conflict that catalyzes ideas that will solve problems.
We can get stuck when we speak of other areas of difference like political parties, race and gender. As highly-charged entrenched areas of difference, we may not be able to easily see past them to innovate. With the generations, I think we’ve got a shot. We can let our generational differences light the fire of innovation or burn down the house.
Seems like the answer is a no-brainer, at least to me.