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Handling Age Difference in the Workplace for a Positive Experience
People are entering the workforce younger and getting out of it later in life, according to business experts. This fact means one thing: that the age gap in some offices is getting larger, and it could be getting more difficult to manage. Age differences in the workplace don?t have to be a cause for arguments and conflict, however. Having people of different ages working together can actually be a positive experience for everyone involved, both professionally and personally. How the age difference question plays out in your office all comes down to how you handle it.
Age differences have always been an issue in the workplace. A generational gap between the old guard and the up and comers has always been unavoidable, but people knew how to manage it in a world where people got one job when they were started out in the working world and stayed with that company throughout their careers. However, those days are gone for good. People tend to bounce from job to job, out of choice or out of necessity, and so that means many workers have to adjust to age differences in the office place while adjusting to new jobs, period.
Even this sense of bouncing around to different jobs can inflame the age difference issue. Older people may not relate to the younger generation?s ways of moving from job to job and drive to find a career that not only makes them money but that they also love. This culture class can cause misunderstandings and tension in the workplace.
What is happening more often with the changing work market is that many younger people are finding themselves in the position of managing older people. Because younger people tend to change jobs more, and because they grew up in the computer generation, they often have more qualifications than older workers. This can cause tension on both sides. Older workers can feel under appreciated and passed over for a job that should have been theirs because of seniority, and younger bosses may feel funny about telling older employees what to do, and correcting them when they make a mistake, because they are supposed to respect their elders. Is there any way to avoid these conflicts at work so that age doesn?t become an issue?
The first way to make sure age isn?t an issue is to simply decide that it isn?t one. If you have younger boss, keep in mind that they were hired for a reason, and be open to the things you can learn from them. If you are in charge of managing an older team, don?t go easy on them because of their age. They won?t respect you for it, and you will only be emphasizing the difference between you. Instead, treat them as you would any other employee, while making personal allowances for some resistance to chance on their part. A certain amount of ?in my day? kind of talk is inevitable. Accept it and take it on board ? you might even learn something ? but have confidence in enforcing the decisions you make at the same time.
The other best way to manage age differences in the office place is to always keep the lines of communication open. If you are a younger manager in charge of an older team, make an active effort to solicit their opinions and to be available to them when a problem arises for them. If you are an older person in the office wondering about how to relate to the younger workers, ask questions. A glimpse into their world may do wonders for your ability to understand and relate to them. Not only will you become more effective co-worker, you might even end up being friends.
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