Multiple generation workforces are certainly nothing new.
For years, offices have been filled with the fresh-faced younger generation who fill the entry-level desks, the established middle who fill the management roles and the older senior executives who are near retirement. But as tech-savvy millennials enter the workforce causing Gen-X-ers and baby boomers to step out of their comfort zones, talk of the generational divide is everywhere.
Recently, national staffing company Spherion released their 2014 Emerging Workforce Study. The study of over 2,000 employees revealed that beyond different communication styles, one’s age also impacts how employees feel about their own career potential and can influence their perception of their coworkers’ and supervisors’ abilities. They found that millennials are more judgemental of the capabilities of their coworkers and more opinionated about their own career opportunities than their older workplace peers.
While roughly one in four employees make judgements about their coworkers’ and supervisors’ abilities to do their job based on their age alone, nearly 39% of millennial employees feel this way—far more than any other generation. And while nearly a quarter of workers agreed that the age of their supervisor influences their perception of his/her capability to do their job, millennial employees are significantly more influenced by age, with 40% agreeing that the age of their supervisor influences their perception.
"We really don’t know whether that’s a positive or negative or neutral [judgement]," says Spherion Division president Sandy Mazur. Other data Spherion has collected on millennials shows they favor a peer-focused management style. "They want to be coached, so we assume that older workers would be respected because of their experience," says Mazur.
"[Millennials] have a shorter vision of a career path," says Mazur. While those in the boomer generation were comfortable working in an entry-level position for several years before progressing to the next level, millennials believe that with the right coaching and guidance they can quickly succeed in their careers. "[This generation] want their opinions heard. They want to be put on task forces and special projects. They want to be given opportunities to grow," says Mazur.
Not only are millennial employees more judgmental of others based on their age, they also believe their youthfulness is on their side and will help open more doors. Sixty-one precent of millennials surveyed agreed they have greater opportunities available to them because of their age, while only 26% of baby boomers indicated they felt this way, while 55% of baby boomers felt their career opportunities were limited because of their age.
Creating harmony in an inter-generational office may mean allowing millennials the opportunity to participate in task forces that are typically staffed by senior level employees, not only to allow them to voice their opinions but to witness the breadth of knowledge their older coworkers and supervisors can bring to the table and have the opportunity to learn from them.
Mazur encourages employers with intergenerational workforces to conduct their own internal surveys and ask how employees feel about their coworkers’ abilities and see what the judgements are that are being passed, whether positive or negative, on both sides of the table.