I talked with an HR consultant today. Among other things, I asked her if she had ever seen age-based differences causing problems in the workplace. The first thing she said was that most conflict she has seen between generations has its roots in communications.
Think about it: Communication can be root of conflict. Or as we point out in our webinars, it can be root of healthy growth, universal flourishing, and good fruit.
What does generations mean, anyway? Is that a real thing? Putting on my word nerd hat here, according to the Etymology Dictionary Online, since the early 1500s it has meant “a body of individuals born about the same period.” So yeah, it’s a real thing. That’s how we still use the word today. In my family, I’m the oldest of three living generations. In employment and sociological circles, and in our popular culture, we identify adult generations as, in descending order of age, the Greatest Generation (coined by Tom Brokaw in his book of that title), Baby Boomers, Generation X, Millennials, and Gen Z.
I think naming age groups like this started when my mine was coming on the scene. When we were just tykes, our elders named the post-World-War-II surge in births the Baby Boom. We were first called Baby Boomers when I was a young adult. We were the young ones once. Today’s Gen Z will someday be elders. It’s fluid.
Too often, talk of these generations reinforces stereotypes. I fear I’ve been guilty of it myself, even regarding myself. Let’s just name it – we have contributed to ageism. Enough, already.
There are no hard and fast boundaries between the generations. One birthday makes you old enough to vote, but there is no birthday that graduates you from young to old. Our challenge is to recognize the differences and value them equally.
It’s a continuum. A human continuum. Like trees, we keep growing. In a healthy forest, the older trees and the younger trees help each other. They look out for one another. They share nutrients, light, and information. And they do that at the roots.
Take your pick. Do you want to grow conflict? Or a healthy environment where all ages thrive and bear abundant fruit?
How can we have more good communication at the root of the age-diverse population, and less communication that blocks growth?
Good communication practices can be preventative or corrective. Either way, we move beyond barriers to build something good together. I like the sound of that.
If you’re intrigued by this topic and its benefit for you or your team, contact me about our intergenerational communication training options. Or sign up for our next webinar, which will be June 4.