Intergenerational coexistence in a company and its dimensions

Someone once said “I’m interested in the future because it’s the place where I’m going to spend the rest of my life”. I have always informed myself about the categories we’ll talk about down below for this reason, because of the sociological and professional consequences they will imply in the future: Baby Boomers, X Generation, Y Generation (or Millennials) and Z Generation.

I don’t personally like to label people or separate them into groups, but I understand the need of creating categories to explain demographic changes in a particular society; naming things so we can understand and study them better is part of our human nature.

New opinions and categories keep appearing as there are people who don’t feel part of any of those generations, and this happens mainly because they condemn the flaws of the predecessor or successor generation. Quoting an article Good magazine published on the topic, there are a group of people that feel “in between of X Generation’s disappointment and Millennials’ optimism, but not as mad or as confident as them”. This is interesting because we start labelling and assigning certain values to each generation: disappointed vs. happy, distrustful vs. confident… and that’s not far from good vs. bad or past vs. future.

José Ortega y Gasset commented that “we’re trained by the era we live in, especially by our youth’s experiences, those that will determine our lives”. This implies that any generation has a homogeneous set of beliefs and values, because time flows and things change, and that is why people with over 20 years of experience see more disruptive a Millennial profile, closer in time to its successor generation, Z Generation.

I had my first mobile phone when I was in university and, before that, to invite the girl I liked to the cinema I had to call a landline phone and pray for her (and not her dad) to answer. We only have to look around us to see that those circumstances are inconceivable today. Nowadays we see that those who were born after that have been quickly gaining accessibility and immediacy, but they also have been losing values like the patience and being able to judge when is the most appropriate moment to do something or express one’s opinion. Even the critical capacity of reducing the distance between two opposite opinions has almost disappeared.

These days there are many companies where different generations coexist and work together: there, we’ll find people with very different experiences, ways of thinking, acting and even being. All these differences will affect their relation with their job and with their surroundings. We’ll find people that are still looking for their place in the world, people used to the immediacy they’ve grown with and with no fear of “work nomadism”, as they are confident enough. They probably trust themselves more than their surroundings. These people are looking for something that quickly and completely meets their expectations, or else they’ll keep looking, for example, for reconciliation in the form of a job from home or job flexibility, as well as several benefits that build a good emotional salary. Baby Boomers and members of the X Generation will definitely have a different perception.

On the contrary, we people with over 10 years’ experience come from a more appeasing culture, maybe because we’ve lived and worked under other working models where working from home was never even mentioned. Rather than that, we were focused on how working would allow us to achieve financial independence, get a house, a car and start a family. These examples may not be priorities for younger workers, and that is respectable too.

We must add the problem of false beliefs; for example, not for being younger you learn quicker, and it’s also not true that a senior profile can’t be innovative. Technological progress evolves, and so do people. Artificial intelligence, for example, will be applied to more and more fields with time, and we’ll all have to adapt, it doesn’t matter if we’ve been working 3 or 20 years. Learning from our past and from the people who were there before us and being able to adapt are two attributes companies must have nowadays. It’s a challenge we all have to face. If we achieve this, our differences can make us stronger; we could learn from each other instead of pushing each other aside because of labels.

In this new work environment, Millennial or Z Generation’s work ethics won’t be better or worse than others, just different. Some speeches, depending on the one delivering them, praise or mortify figures forgetting the most important thing: we’re talking about persons, and we must create spaces to create the Rubik cube that is intergenerational coexistence in organizations.

It’s easier than it seems; it doesn’t matter your age if you work with an open mind and you learn from everything and everyone, because adapting to changes is a development opportunity. Let’s not forget that we are better together; changes are both an opportunity and a challenge to work all together.