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Using coaching to bridge generation gaps in the workplace

During this unique time in history with 4 (sometimes 5) generations working together, it can bring judgment, frustration, and conflict. When employees from varying generations are willing to teach and learn from each other, it builds a reliable bridge that will lead to tolerance, patience, respect, and cooperation in the workplace.

What all generations have in common is that at one point in their lives they were new to joining the workforce. Although technology has changed many things for the younger employees, it has also created the opportunity for all generations to coach and learn from one another.  

 I am going to discuss some of the differences between the multi-generations in the workplace and give some ideas on how coaching can bring everyone together. 

Understand each generation’s work ethic

Baby Boomers’ work ethics were developed because of the large number of babies born after World War 2. They were raised to work hard, do what they were told, and to be loyal to the company. On the contrary, Gen-Xers’ and Millennials were taught to question authority, go for what they want, and use technology to make life more fluid. Both of these generations are ambitious and hardworking, but if their employer does not respect them, they leave. Company loyalty is not a priority for them.

Learning and acknowledging what shaped each generation to behave the way they do will replace judgment with understanding. Consider adding a section in your employee handbook describing the history and characteristics about the various generations and ask employees to be aware of the differences.

Create committees

Gen-Xer’s and Millennials were raised participating in group projects and feel like there is more support, creativity, and connection in an interactive setting. Birthday or holiday committees are an easy way to build teamwork and keep employees watching out for each other. Blending the generations by assigning them to committees gives them a neutral place to work together while serving others, creating a space for connection and appreciation. 

Ask questions

Most stereotypes referring to the different generations block collaboration and enhance conflict in the workplace. Coaching can help dissolve misconceptions because it begins by asking short and open-ended questions allowing the coach to understand the employees’ critical thinking and problem-solving process. When you incorporate coaching into your company culture, it creates an environment of curiosity, sharing, and understanding, helping to bridge the gap between the generations.  

Active listening 

More important than asking questions when coaching is listening to the response;   the choice of words, points of view, and motivation. The goal of coaching is to remove assumptions so you can focus on understanding where the person is coming from. Afterward, reflect back to them what you heard and ask any questions you might have to begin a productive conversation to co-create a solution.

Let employees explore options

It can be uncomfortable to stand by and watch someone solve things in a different way than you would do it ; however, coaching is an empowerment process to inspire confidence and connection. As the coach, you must resist telling the other person what to do, and instead, ask them to give you a few options first and then offer your input afterward. This provides room for both parties to explain their thought process and to learn about each other. 

Feedback

It’s not just Gen-X and millennial employees who want frequent feedback – the other generations appreciate it too –  it just wasn’t an option for them before. Consistent check-ins let the employee know how they are progressing toward their goal, and frequent feedback will keep them motivated and inspired. Checking in often to ask questions, offer encouragement, and express confidence in the employee’s ability to succeed will allow them to ask questions and be redirected if they are headed in the wrong direction. 

 Trust and appreciate what each generation brings to the table

The old office paradigm of top-down management is becoming extinct, and the rise of collaborative leadership is found to be much more effective. When your employees model positive coaching and feedback at work, they will dismantle stereotypes and grow stronger as a team. Coaching and feedback will not only inspire collaboration and confidence in your employees but will also create a healthy and enjoyable work environment.  

In conclusion, during this unique time in history, having four generations together in the workplace only has one solution, and it is to tolerate and collaborate.  Coaching is a successful solution because it is participative, and people tend to learn and adopt new habits more easily, bringing cooperation and innovation to your business.

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