As more and more of us are living – and working – longer, you may have found that you have up to four generations working together in your facility:

  • The Silent Generation (sometimes referred to as the “Greatest Generation”, thanks to Tom Brokaw… were born between the 1920s and 1942). Many experts believe that 95% of them are retired; however younger members may still be in your workforce.
  • The Baby Boomers (roughly those born between the early 1940s and the early 1960s)
  • Generation X (those born between the early ‘60s and no later than 1981 or 1982)
  • Millennials (those born in the early 1980s to about 2001; also known as “Generation Y”)

How can all of these diverse generations get along?  It is simple… focusing on what everyone has in common and avoiding generational stereotypes.   Older workers are not “stodgy” – no more than younger workers are “arrogant”.  Stereotypes lead to labeling and assumptions, which in a work environment can be inaccurate (at best) and dangerous (at worst).

But what exactly are generational stereotypes?  They are a grouping – a generalization, if you will – of people based on their birth year.   People who are born a certain number of years apart are grouped together because the assumption is made that their life experiences (and therefore their approach to life) are similar.  This is how statements originate that Baby Boomers are idealistic, stressed out, and materialistic, whereas Millennials are coddled, Gen Xers are “streetwise” and the Silent Generation will never learn how to text.

However, this is simply not true.  People of different generations do have different approaches to life; however, at their core, all workers have the same wants and needs.  A 2009 paper by the International Centre for Human Resources in Nursing writes that everyone has the following five needs at work:

  1. The presence of healthy interpersonal relationships
  2. Having meaningful work
  3. Experiencing a sense of competence or self-efficacy
  4. Having autonomy or choice
  5. The achievement of progress

The paper also advises that managers “keep in mind that one approach does not fit every person or every situation. One key principle can make it easier. Instead of assuming all employees fit the defined characteristics of a particular generational cohort, ask employees directly what is important to them or how they want to be treated.”  Communicate with your employees, and you will be surprised at the answers.  Workers, regardless of their age, have the same values; the way that they express those values just may be a bit different.

As for dealing with conflicts among the generations, the paper recommends that managers “[e]stablish clear expectations for behaviors based on the elements of healthy relationships.”  Again, communication is key.  Communicate often and honestly with employees, listen to their concerns and look out for their interests, reframe situations to allow workers to see an issue in a different light, and coach them to think through issues fully.

Do you have a multi-generational workforce at your facility? If so, what conflicts have popped up and how have you managed them?

We hope you’re enjoying our Snelling Medical Blog and that you find it useful as you manage your facility. Bookmark us and come visit us each week! In the meantime, if you have a staffing need for your facility, contact us today!

NOTE:  A full-color, downloadable PDF is available.