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The Other Generation: Understanding Coworkers From A Different Generation

The Other Generation: Understanding Coworkers From A Different Generation


In a recent article, published by news outlet Fusion Media, the owner of NBA basketball team the Phoenix Suns made a startling assumption about the reason why his team is performing so poorly this season. The Suns, owned by Robert Sarver, are currently 13-30 this season. Why are they so bad this season? Millennials, of course.

"My whole view of the millennial culture is that they have a tough time dealing with setbacks…I'm not sure if it's the technology or the instant gratification of being online," said Sarver. "But the other thing is, I'm not a fan of social media. The only thing people put online are good things that happen to them, or things they make up. And it creates unrealistic expectations."

This line of thinking is all too common with many people from the Gen-X or Baby Boomer generations. It's not uncommon for an older generation to think that the younger generation is doing everything the wrong way, or are too spoiled, entitled, or lazy.

But it also goes both ways. People from a younger generation view the older generation as stubborn, set in their ways, and unwilling to compromise and see new ways to accomplish goals. Eventually, millennials will also start criticizing the generation below them (Founders? Generation Z?) as outdated and inept. That's just how generations tend to think of each other.

In reality, neither group is correct. The problem isn't doing something the right way or the wrong way. It's more accurately a problem of being willing to understand where the other generation is coming from, and learning to compromise when it's more beneficial to do so.

If you're having trouble understanding how your co-workers from another generation think, check out these tips.

Don't Be Quick To Judge

When someone challenges the way we think or the way we do things, most of us will immediately get defensive and try to prove that "no, this way is the best way to do it, and you're wrong!" In reality, solving a task at work is usually not a black or white issue. Most of the time, it falls into a bit of a gray area, where there are a ton of different ways to get to a correct solution. Just like in a complex math equation. Instead of judging the other generation, and thinking they're too stubborn or too reckless, learn to be patient and keep yourself from judging to the point where you can't see another way to accomplish a goal.

Communication Is Key

There's no point in keeping all your thoughts and opinions about how something should be done bottled up inside of you. Ignoring the other party never helps. Try to communicate and work together in a civilized way. Chances are, you're both trying to do what's best for the company, you're just approaching it in different ways. If you're really having a problem communicating with an older or younger colleague, it never hurts to meet with your manager or HR person and have a discussion together!

Try To See Things Their Way

If you're having trouble understanding how or why the other generation makes decisions the way they do, simply ask them about it. Say, "I understand this is the way you want to do this, but I'm having trouble understanding why. Do you have a few minutes to go over your plan with me? I'd love to get a new/different perspective!" Your colleague should respect the fact that you're interested in seeing their side of the story. A true example of a mature and professional employee is one that can see the other side of the coin, and respect the opinions of other people.

Learning to understand others, especially those from a different generation, is sometimes a difficult thing to do, but a goal that ultimately benefits everyone.

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Contributor Caleb Hennington

Contributor Caleb Hennington

Contributor Caleb Hennington is a 23-year-old writer, who manages the Atwill Media and FGmarket blogs. He graduated from Arkansas State University in 2014 with a bachelor's degree in journalism.

When not writing, Caleb enjoys camping, running, collecting comic books, and binge-watching shows on Netflix.

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