Pat is 27. He has worked in his present job for just 1-1/2 years. One day Pat meets with his boss, the VP of Marketing, in his boss’s office. Pat begins to discuss ideas he has for creating greater awareness of the company on the Internet, specifically through a social media campaign on Facebook, LinkedIn, Twitter, and other venues. Pat presents a brief plan on paper. It’s nothing too complex, just some bullet points. Pat’s boss scans the document, clears his throat, and grumbles, “Where’s the rest of the plan? Where are your projections for return on investment? I don’t see anything about the upfront investment of time and materials. Who is going to execute the plan, monitor it? Huh?”

With each question, Pat’s eyes grow wider, his face redder. His boss’s lips stretch into what’s best described as a sh!%-eating grin, as if to say, “You think you’re so freakin’ smart with your new technology, let me see what you do with this!”

Pat maintains composure, as well as any first-job-out-of-college employee could do. Pushed to his limits, he finally says, “Whatever.” and turns to exit. Just before he leaves, he blurts, “I’ll be in your job sooner than you think!”

Amazingly, this is a true story and more common than you think. Resentment and disrespect between members of the same team, verbally expressed or not, are being felt more and more throughout the “halls” of corporate America. Can you say, “Business as Usual?”

There is a clear generation gap within the American workforce. We have “baby-boomers” whose levels/ positions within their companies are generally nearer the top of the food chain, and we have subsequent generations—”X,” “Y,” “Z,” “Millennial”—rounding out the rest of the hierarchy.

Time is not on the side of baby-boomers, many of whom will find themselves on the outs unless they can adapt to conducting business not as they would have it, but as the changing economic landscape dictates. It’s simple. For businesses to grow, the people within them must grow as well (including older team members). They must first acknowledge a need to modify behavior, and then seek the tools and developmental aids necessary. Those unable to adapt will be designated “dinosaurs,” extinct and out-of-touch. Their self-confidence and self-worth will drop, further diminishing their contributions.

As leaders and business owners, perhaps it’s time for you to help these older workers—and in turn ALL of your workers regardless of age or years of service—help you.

Here are some ideas on how to begin narrowing the generation gap between workers in your organization. Think of it as investing in both the present and the future—as a way to get your entire company culture up-to-date and aligned.

  1. Let’s assume your company has issued smart-phones to most employees, especially those in management/leadership positions. Congratulations! Now, does everyone know how to use this technology to its maximum potential? Probably not.
    • Offer classes to staff on how to use their smart phones and other devices (such as iPads). Develop these classes internally; invest in your company!
    • Engage younger generation workers by having them put together a program that teaches “dinosaurs” how to use such tools effectively.
  2. Create “Mentoring” programs for both younger and older generation workers.
    • Have experienced employees lead/guide your newer employees, fostering a sense of continuity and legacy
    • Have younger “whipper-snappers” lead/guide the “dinosaurs” through the maze of today’s technology, lingo, and social networking sites, helping overcome their fears of embracing all things new

The talent pool of workers is shrinking. To perpetuate your success and remain profitable, you need to retain those employees who got you where you are and whom you believe will get you where you want to go. Those able to adapt and willing to learn (including you!) will want to stay. Those who think Pat’s boss was an awesome dude will need to make another choice.

Don’t always be the one who determines who stays and who goes. Create a workplace environment where people, regardless of their generation, want to grow and learn.

It’s your choice . . .


(Stuart Friedman is president of Progressive Management Associates. He is a business visionary helping his clients get their companies “Unstuck!” He guides organizations through cultural shifts, getting people aligned to strategic outcomes. He is a leading consultant, speaker, coach, and author. He can be reached via email: stuart@pma-co.com)