Clash of the Generations: 5 Ways to Resolve Generational Conflict at Property Management Companies
It is extremely likely that you or someone you know has heard comments like this around the office water cooler: “Why does her title mean so much to her? She uses it to club people over the head!” or “Why does he think he can take my job after one year of employment? Doesn’t he know he has to pay his dues?” or “Why does she always want to change things? We’ve done it this way for twenty years!”
Who are the three generations currently working side-by-side? Why are they clashing in the workplace? Could this clash of the generations boil down to a good old-fashioned misunderstanding of intentions and values? How can we resolve generational conflict at property management workplaces and get back to the actual work at hand?
Understanding the Generations in Generational Conflict
To begin to find ways to resolve generational conflict in the workplace, we must first understand who the different generations working side-by-side in your leasing office and property management companies are.
For Baby Boomers, memories of peace, love, music, and maybe some hallucinogenic drugs link this generation of approximately 78 million together. Well, maybe not all of them. The Early Baby Boomers were born between 1946 and 1955, a ten year span. This group is often referred to as the Classic Boomer generation. Many researchers believe that the single most crucial and defining event for the Early Baby Boomers was the Vietnam War and the protests over the draft which ended in 1973. The Younger Baby Boomers were born between 1956 and 1964, a nine year span. This second group is also known as the Baby Boomer Generation X. The babies born after 1955 were not subject to the draft and were too young to be a part of the 1960’s culture. Their tendencies closely resemble those of Generation X.
- Key Characteristics of the Early Baby Boomers: work-centric, goal-oriented, competitive, free-spirited, optimistic, social cause oriented. They live to work.
- Key Characteristics of the Younger Baby Boomers: less optimistic, general cynicism. More like Gen X.
Generation X, born between 1965 and 1977, are sandwiched between two overpowering generations. Generation X single-handedly made Aqua Net an overnight sensation! Often referred to as the Loser Generation, Generation X were latch-key kids. They were mostly unsupervised and took care of themselves before and after school, on weekends, and during holidays while their parents worked. The significant rise in latch-key kids started in the late 1970’s and continued into the 1990’s. At work, they have lived in the shadow of the Baby Boomers for many years. However, as the Boomers retire, they will leave a huge leadership gap behind. A generation of 78 million Boomers will be followed by a generation of 41 million Generation X—you do the math. Gen X is taking over the leadership helm and their leadership skills will be in high demand.
- Key Characteristics of Generation X: Independent, self-reliant, resilient, risk-taker, cynical, flexible, technologically adept, and resourceful. They are survivors. They work to live rather than live to work. They appreciate fun in the workplace and have a work hard/play hard mentality.
At a whopping 85 million members, Generation Y (Millennials) is the largest of the three generations currently working side-by-side in the workplace. Born between 1978 and 1995, the children of the Baby Boomers and Gen X are causing a lot of confusion and disruption in the workplace. They are like Generation X on speed! They grew up with better phones, better computers, and better gaming systems than Gen X. They were coddled by their Baby Boomer parents and at a very early age learned that “everyone should receive a blue ribbon—there are no losers”. They are often labeled as lazy, narcissistic and prone to jump from job to job. Now in their late teenage years to their mid-thirties, Generation Y will soon be leading the world.
- Key Characteristics of Generation Y: Deeply aware of social issues, entrepreneurial, comfortable with change and a fast pace, open-minded, confident, self-expressive, upbeat and receptive to new ideas.
Why the Generations Clash at Your Property Management Companies
Generation gaps and conflicts are as old as history. An inter-generational sociological study conducted by the University of Wisconsin indicates that the majority of generational conflicts arise from value differences. The study revealed that understanding generational values and how these values developed can help businesses better manage and perform across generational boundaries. The “what” and the “why” answers for each generation can be quite revealing.
|What Are You Thinking?||Baby Boomers||Generation X||Generation Y|
|My work is…||An exciting adventure||A contract||A means to an end|
|Words that motivate me at work are…||You are needed/valued||Let’s do it your way!||You will work with other brilliant, creative people.|
|My thoughts on meetings…||I love to have meetings!||Another meeting? Ugh||What’s a meeting? In-person?|
|My Work Ethic||Workaholic||Eliminate the task||What’s next?|
Before you gripe about someone of a different generation or head down the hall to confront them, you might consider learning a little about what they truly value and why they might think differently than you.
Resolving the Generational Conflict
According Larry and Meagan Johnson, authors of the book Generations, Inc., each generation has been influenced by the major historical events, social trends, and the culture of their time, shaping their ideas about everything from expectations and perceptions about what the workplace will provide to how they should behave as employees. This includes company loyalty and work ethic.
Generations, Inc., highlights 5 ways to resolve generational conflict in the workplace:
- Consider the generational factor. There is almost always a generational component to conflict at work; recognizing this offers new ways to resolve each one. For example, Baby Boomers tend to work very long hours, while Generation X and Generation Y value their time at home. Baby Boomers tend to cling to their corporate-ladder-climbing procedures, while Gen Y doesn’t believe those rungs should exist. If they are good, they should be rewarded regardless of years on the job.
- Consider the generational values at stake. Each generation is protecting a distinct set of values, and a conflict may threaten these values. For example, Baby Boomers like to work face-to-face in a brick and mortar building, while Generation X and Generation Y are very comfortable working remotely. This can become a very sharp point of contention.
- Air different generations’ perceptions. When employees of two or more generations are involved in a workplace conflict, they can learn a great deal by sharing their perceptions. For example, Generation X might find a Gen Y’s lack of formality and manners offensive, while Gen Y might be insulted when this older employee fails to respect her opinion and input simply because she hasn’t “paid her dues”.
- Find a generationally appropriate fix. While we can’t change people’s life experience, we can work with their set of attitudes and the expectations that result from it. For example, when your experienced Baby Boomer becomes frustrated by a Gen Y’s lack of experience and sense of entitlement, turn the Boomer into a mentor. Your Gen Y employee would LOVE a mentor!
- Learn from each other. Each generation has valuable lessons to teach the next.
While no person fits perfectly within the four walls of a generational box, we can draw from history, research, and personal experience and use this valuable information to better understand our differences and similarities to resolve conflicts in the workplace—from the leasing office to the executive suite. Sometimes a conflict simply boils down to a good old-fashioned misunderstanding of intentions and values. By understanding others and being open to trying new things or doing them differently, we may discover more effective ways to manage and co-exist in the workplace.
Are you prepared to transform your workplace from the “clash of the generations” to an age-diverse, competitive, and productive team?
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