The importance of inter-generational relationships

Inter-generational collaboration and interactions keep our minds active and young and help dissolve stereotypes

August 20, 2022 01:51 pm | Updated 03:21 pm IST

It is a conscious choice to work at dissolving the bias we attach to each generation and dismiss any intergenerational conflict as generation gap.

It is a conscious choice to work at dissolving the bias we attach to each generation and dismiss any intergenerational conflict as generation gap. | Photo Credit: Freepik

They say, birds of the same feather flock together. In our social circles, we tend to feel most comfortable with those who share our likes and hobbies or are from similar backgrounds or age groups. But, today, I would like to make a case for how breaking the stereotype of “the same feather” or “sameness” can liberate us tremendously, especially in the workplace and in the context of inter-generational communication.

Every generation is labelled, criticised and lauded for the way it thinks and behaves. Fancy terms and adjectives get attached to each generation. The Baby Boomers, Gen X, the Millennials, Gen Z, and so on. Social scientists, academics, psychologists, authors, artists and analysts attempt to capture the characteristics of each of these generations. Individuals who actually belong to these generations read and wonder if those studies and reports are correct.

Different perspectives

Companies and organisations invest a lot of time and energy in analysing cross-generational representation in their employees. They then use this data to improve and strengthen their strategies. Enabling a workforce that has a balanced representation from each generation helps organisations gain considerably from the unique traits of each age-group. After all, each individual brings in different perspectives.

But, it is not just the companies who stand to gain from having an inter-generational workforce or having programmes that enable inter-generational collaboration. How can employees benefit from cultivating and maintaining inter-generational relationships in the workplace?

The baby boomers, who are still actively engaged in work, can consciously create or participate in organisational initiatives that appeal to their younger colleagues. Gen X, the generation that follows the boomers, tends to hold senior positions in most organisations. This may empower them to enable a participatory and inter-generational work culture in the teams and the departments they manage. The Millennials (or Gen Y) and Gen Z could also keep their minds open to ideas and suggestions from the generations that preceded them. If an organisation encourages every generation to be open-minded and be their authentic self, that helps a great deal. Additionally, there could even be reward and appreciation programmes that recognise teams that uphold such a culture.

Enriching openness

Each generation and age-group needs to have an open mind to the ideas, communication preferences, word choices and working styles of the other. And it is this openness, which will enrich us. It is a conscious choice to work at dissolving the bias we attach to each generation, and dismiss any inter-generational conflict as generation gap.

In my own career, I can confidently say I have learnt from colleagues who are older and younger than me in every team I have been part of. It is fascinating to watch and learn how each generation approaches concepts, problems, and tasks. It is also equally insightful to observe how each generation generates and receives ideas. All of us have our own ways of doing things. The sooner we accept and understand these differences, the easier it becomes to dissolve stereotypes. For every cliché that surrounds a particular age group or generation, there are 10 exceptions.

In the company I work in, we have employee-run volunteer programmes which provide ample opportunities for inter-generational work communication, collaboration and cross-cultural interactions. If you are a team leader planning a project or a company event, you can consciously invite employees from different layers, representing diverse generations. You can rest assured that the programme will benefit immensely from the diverse perspectives each generation brings. And that experience will leave you richer for the insights you have gained. If you are new to an organisation, that’s also a great way to connect and expand your network — to learn and to grow.

Inter-generational collaboration and interactions keep our minds active and young. Birds of the same feather need not flock together, after all.

The writer is a poet, novelist, translator and literary journalist. She’s a communications professional and works at UST, a digital services company. Views expressed are personal. @anupamaraju

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