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Modern day workplaces face unique challenges every day, including the need to unify multigenerational teams in order to achieve shared organizational goals. At January’s virtual luncheon, best-selling author Jeff Butler presented guidance, support, and advice for organizations on creating unity in spite of the differing viewpoints, culture, experiences, and backgrounds that characterize a multigenerational workforce.

Jeff Butler has authored two provocative books – The Authentic Workplace and The Key To The New You and over 100 articles on workplaces dynamics that have been featured in Forbes and HR News. In addition, he has appeared on TEDx in both 2016 and 2017 with both talks focusing on psychology. Today, he is the CEO of JButler International, a consulting company that helps organizations optimize their multigenerational workforce.


Debunking the Stereotypes

Butler began by addressing the commonly held generational stereotypes and the accuracy (or inaccuracy) of each.

Every generation has its own stereotype – Baby Boomers are expected to be out of touch, Gen Xers are expected to be loners and pessimists, and Millennials are expected to be entitled and lazy.

While these stereotypes are heavily tied to each generation they’re not necessarily accurate, and these inaccurate generalizations largely influence the way we see other generations in the workplace. Butler has taken every opportunity to ask individuals in each group if they feel these stereotypes are applicable and the answer is nearly always, “No.”

By making these generations and attempting to use just a few words to describe a group composed of 15 years worth of people we create expectations that are unlikely to be met.


Culture Clashes in the Workplace

Next, Butler discussed ways in which differences in generational culture can create friction and conflict in the workplace. 

Expectation can be defined as “an agreement between two parties.”

Every individual walks into a workplace with different expectations. A Baby Boomer might be concerned about the base salary, a Gen Xer might be interested in available leadership opportunities, and a Millennial might be looking for the freedom to work from home. These different expectations can lead to friction points and generational conflict.

One of the most common areas of generational conflict in the workplace is technology. Because technology is constantly changing from generation to generation as it improves, each generation has a very different relationship with technology. These differing expectations can cause friction. Additionally, the ability to curate an impact on social media creates a distorted reality and filtered content creates isolation that can hinder our ability to deal with conflicting opinions or views.


Breaching the Generational Gap

Finally, Butler presented three steps for effectively breaching generational gaps in the workplace: align, build, and communicate.

Step 1: Align

Seasoned individuals in the workplace are there because they’ve been successful in what they’ve done in the past. Less experienced individuals come in with big, new ideas and want to revolutionize the way the workplace is run.

The key? Both of these groups must change their behavior. The more seasoned individuals must recognize the benefits to be gained by adapting to newer practices where they make sense. Individuals who are newer to the workforce must realize that there is likely a reason the company is run the way it is, even if it’s not readily apparent to them. 

A few of the hot spots that can cause disruption and friction in the workplace include work/life balance, work ethic, culture, and communication protocol. To create alignment in each of these areas, be sure to clarify your expectations as a leader and manage the expectations of your employees.

Step 2: Build

The main difference between generations (and people in general) are their values and beliefs. So if you can get people working together who hold different values and beliefs, you’ve solved that problem.

Before this can happen though, you need to define and understand your core ideology as a team, company, or group. This is the framework that holds the team together. To effectively bring together generations with differing values and beliefs, everyone must buy into this core ideology as they work cooperatively toward a common goal. 

Step 3: Communicate

Communication is the pipeline for innovation. If you present a diverse group of individuals with a problem, their diverse experiences and backgrounds will allow them to solve that problem more efficiently and effectively. To make this possible, there must be clear and open channels of communication within the organization and typically leaders within an organization set the communication tone.

Different generations look for feedback differently within the workplace. Baby Boomers are used to receiving annual performance reviews, Gen Xers have become accustomed to monthly feedback, and Millennials tend to look for up-to-the-minute feedback on their performance. So what kind of feedback is best? Researchers have found that providing feedback consistently and in a one-on-one setting between manager and direct report are most effective and foster engagement in employees.

In closing, AMA Knoxville Board President extended an invitation to the chapter’s upcoming annual conference – Crafting Campaigns: From Concept to Conversion beginning Tuesday, January 19, 2021.

For more information on Jeff Butler or his consulting company, JButler International, please visit jeffjbutler.com.

Written by Jessica Sarten. Jessica is a an e-commerce marketing specialist and marketing blogger. She’s passionate about helping small business owners navigate the digital world and create game-changing growth for their companies. When she’s not working you can find her with a vanilla latte in hand, enjoying a podcast, crocheting, or spending time with her husband, Jairus. To learn more or connect with Jessica, please visit her website.

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