Bridging the Intergenerational Disconnect

Boomers love their GoGo boots and Millennials adore their GoPros. Could the polarization of our workplace be any better represented than by these iconic images?

As part of the cross-cultural and intercultural community, it is our responsibility to discover commonalities and bridge these generational gaps. When organizations and Boomers provide Gen X with the right support, Gen X is in the perfect position to bridge the generational gap between their older and younger peers. Consider these four options in our modern workplace:

1) Implement a Formal Mentoring Program with Information Sharing for Emerging Leaders: Survey, gather knowledge and share feedback between protégés and mentors for all generations in the workforce. Create a knowledge platform for sharing teachable moments and valuable intelligence. Be sure each generation is represented on the Mentoring Board. Formalize the mentoring program with structure, monthly meetings, feedback and activities.

2) Transparency: Millennials have accessed the Internet since before they can remember. Verifying facts on a smartphone comes naturally; without a second thought. Transparency is everything, and they’ve developed a need for a constant stream of information. There is a distrust of organizations unwilling to bare it all when requested. If Millennials fail to grasp on a basic level, how, when, and why a business operates as it does, they have no interest in committing to its success. When Gen X managers mentor by successfully building a dialogue around organizational history and operations with their younger colleagues, engagement and trust are built, leading to longer-lasting relationships between generations.

3) Create a Gen X Led Culture & Communication Program:Confidence, cultural awareness and effective communication programs contribute to a harmonious workplace. Boomers and Gen X can share information and teach each other how to motivate Millennials. This creates confidence and builds communication skills across generations by giving leaders safe spaces to practice directness, and face fear. These cultural communication programs facilitate an important, active, ongoing dialogue between generations – enabling them to learn from each other in the process.

4) Encourage Frequent C-Suite Interaction: In our office, Gen X successfully recruits, trains and keeps a dialogue open with our Millennials. New ideas are encouraged and tested because we want to weather through and succeed for another decade, or two. Millennials will soon be training the generation behind them, necessitating the need to adapt. Today, Gen X is tech savvy, less formal, and more willing to selectively reveal their vulnerabilities to Millennials. They are the perfect generational bridge between Millennials and Boomers. Let’s encourage all generations to interact via formal and informal activities, including office Olympics, book signings, musical concerts, dinners and film openings.

One day we may observe Boomers wearing GoGo Boots with Gen X mentoring Millennials sporting GoPros!

Sharon Schweitzer, J.D., is a cross-cultural consultant, an international protocol expert and the founder of Protocol & Etiquette Worldwide. She is accredited in intercultural management, is the resident etiquette expert for CBS Austin’s We Are Austin, regularly quoted by BBC Capital, Investor’s Business Daily, Fortune, The New York Times, and numerous other media. She is the best-selling, international award-winning author ofAccess to Asia: Your Multicultural Business Guide, named to Kirkus Review’s Best Books of 2015 and recipient of the British Airways International Trade, Investment & Expansion Award at the 2016 Greater Austin Business Awards.