Recently we talked about the different generations in the workplace and gave an overview of what you need to know about the people in your organisation and those you want to attract, whether they are baby boomers, generation X or gen Y (millennials).

In the second part of our series on this hot topic we want to explore why you may experience challenges within teams where you have multigenerational members.

In everyday life, irrespective of which generation you are from, gen Y, gen X or baby boomer, we
experience each other through conversations together and the actions we do and take. In other words, through our behaviours.

As human beings, we all (whether we want to admit it or not) make judgements about other people based on their behaviours and appearance. ‘First impressions count’ became a term for a reason.  So when we see or hear someone saying or doing something unusual, our first reaction is to make a judgment.

Let’s say that a colleague had an idea on how to improve a process that the team had been using for
sometime and decided to do a mini test of their own idea.
Having demonstrated that this ‘new ‘way could work they excitedly mention it to their colleague whose response is: “You had no right to run the test without asking our manager, who do you think you are. You want to be careful, getting ideas above your station won’t work in this team” ……...ouch!!

The result of the above interaction can then be a level of tension between these two individuals and this is a typical example that can happen across many offices and organisations. I suspect you have seen it at some point too?


The question then is why do we judge and respond in a unsupportive way?

Generally, we make judgments about something we really don’t understand. If what we observe doesn’t conform to what we learned from our own past experiences, we promptly dismiss it.

Going back to the above example:

If a baby boomer or gen x’s opinion and experience has been that you always ask your manager for permission to test a new idea, then when a young gen y/ millennial colleague shows them the results
of a mini test they have proactively run, their judgements kick in.

The reverse judgement could be that the young millennial thinks that “all baby boomers /gen x are reactive rather than proactive”, again not a helpful judgement either.


What are our most common judgements based on?

The most common judgements that we all unconsciously make are based on appearances.

Be honest, who hasn’t at some point judged someone based on one of the following:

1. A combination of piercings, tattoos and dreadlocks.

2. The length of someone’s skirt, how revealing a top is, or the length of a man’s trousers.

3. Someone wearing scuffed shoes in an interview, or their tie being loose and top button being
undone underneath it.

4. Overdoing the perfume or aftershave.
I could go on and I think you are getting a sense of what I mean.

The team at Lucy Walker Recruitment deal with candidates and hiring managers unconsciously judging each other daily.

While some observations are completely valid, too often it is apparent that one party has been far too quick to judge the other and the interview has not allowed the other  party to represent themselves to the fullest.


What are the implications of judging others?

When you have multigenerational teams and individuals who are quick to judge their colleagues
what happens is that they stop taking time and making an effort to get to know their team mates better and to want to explore and understand what makes their colleagues say and do the things they do.

Steven Covey (1932-2012) was and remains a hugely influential management expert. His most famous book was The Seven Habits of Highly Effective People in which he describes 7 aspirational habits for individuals to adopt in their personal and professional lives.

The second habit is: Seek first to understand before being understood.

When we judge others, we simply stop ourselves from wanting to seek to understand them. The consequences of this means that we are unable to learn from each other, we are not open to
new ideas and ways of doing things and we don’t allow ourselves to value the talents and strengths
everyone has to bring, irrespective of which generation they come from.

When our judging habits are so engrained and we are so unconscious of them, what can we do
if we want to encourage stronger understanding and more effective working relationships within
multi-generational teams?

Look out for my next post in a few weeks where I explore some practical ideas of what you can do if you are planning to attract and keep any of these generations in your work force.

About the Author: Lucy Walker

Lucy Walker is the founder and Managing Director at Lucy Walker Recruitment.Lucy has an extensive knowledge of the issues and workings of the West Yorkshire and Greater Manchester Commercial markets developed over 25 years in the profession