While we probably all have experience in working with people of different ages, we may be unaware of the impact of meta-stereotypes on the quality of workplaces.
First, what are meta-stereotypes? They are stereotypes and being part of the meta-perceptions’ family, they affect both ways: assuming that others judge us following stereotypes based on age, we may be led to judging others in the same way. And vice-versa.
It may seem trivial, but research shows that this type of behavior negatively affects things like employee’s job performance, produces conflicts and avoidance behavior, and disrupt mentor-protégé relationships.
Nevertheless, there is a way to communicate effectively in a multi-generational workplace. Here’s a list of practices that can help in tackling this issue:
- Empathy: take different perspectives and try to adapt your communication methods to a diverse workforce. Remember that at the present moment we can have up to five different generations working under the same organization! From the Silent Generation up to Generation Z.
- Foster collaborative relationships: conflict should be present but managed proactively by all parties.
- Share to others success stories about age-diverse collaborations: and avoid commenting following age-related stereotypes.
- Emphasize shared goals: there should be a reinforcement of ‘we’ instead of focusing on ‘us’ versus ‘them’.
- Respect people’s change over time: within our age, we all live in a different phase of our lives, and so we should be considered by others.
And for who manages workforces:
- Identify generation’s expectations: workforces have their unique demographics, with their individual needs. Periodical surveys and future projections help in better understanding the composition of the workforce and consequent actions.
- Promote cross-generational mentoring: why not linking generations through mentoring programs?
Specific situations may still create confusion, such as the eventuality of young people ending up managing older people. However, internally to enterprises, it is essential to highlight that each person has a unique portfolio of competencies and experiences. What can be done is not fixing on labels and trying to get to know everyone without stereotyping. Finally, you may also want to look into ageism and related suggestions.