Are age stereotypes real in the workplace? | How to get the best out of each generation | Jo Attard on 2UE Talking Lifestyle Radio – Podcast

In this podcast interview, Jo Attard speaks with 2UE Talking Lifestyle Radio’s Tim Webster & Suzy Yates about how to maximise workplace harmony and get the best out of each generation regardless of age.

Today, workplaces can have up to five generations working together and there is a perception that the various age groups don’t get along. This isn’t always the case – and there is research to support this.

While each generation does have certain tendencies, it’s important not to apply a broad brush and make assumptions that may not be correct.

The time that people want to stay in a job and the amount of time that they are prepared to be in the office or workplace may vastly differ from generation to generation. At the same time, there is also plenty of knowledge and skill that can be shared both ways.

Key topics covered in this podcast interview:

  • The form of communication preferred by pre and post baby boomers.
  • A look at the generation that thrives on meetings and vigorous discussions about the big issues.
  • How reverse mentoring, where older workers are mentored by younger workers, is gaining popularity in some organisations.
  • Why good leaders celebrate difference and acknowledge skill and input across generations.
  • Why it’s important for all workers to adapt and remain relevant, keeping up with technology and other changes in the way things are done.
  • Why it’s important not to write off people based on their age, dress or appearance.

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Read the transcript

Suzy Yates: 

Tim, we always joke about the millennials in our workplace.

Tim Webster: 

And the ones coming up and down the lift. I think they’re fascinating.

Suzy Yates:  

Despite the age differences, we do love them.

Tim Webster:   

We love them dearly. They’re sweet.

Suzy Yates:  

I wonder whether our workplace is similar to others where we now have five, think about that, five generations working together in the workforce on a full-time basis.

Tim Webster:

Yeah.

Suzy Yates:   

Why is it then, more than ever, we hear of people not getting on with each other at work?

Tim Webster:  

I don’t know. Everyone gets on here pretty well, don’t they?

Suzy Yates:     

Yeah, I think so. But there are-

Tim Webster: 

[crosstalk 00:00:31]

Suzy Yates:   

… workplaces where-

Tim Webster:  

I’m sure.

Suzy Yates:

… there’s a real disconnect between the different age groups, so we thought we’d get some advice. Jo Attard is a career expert. She runs PeopleEdge Coaching and Consulting and she’s on the line.

Suzy Yates: 

Morning, Jo.

Jo Attard:  

Morning Tim and Suzy.

Tim Webster: 

Hi. Big difference between those five generations in age for a start, Jo.

Jo Attard:    

Yes, there certainly is in age, but, funnily enough, there are also a number of similarities. I think we just have to remember that although there may be some generational tendencies, they’re just that, and they’re often fueled by the times that each generation was brought up in. I suppose we’ve really just had to be a bit careful not to broad brush and make assumptions that may not be correct-

Tim Webster:   

True.

Jo Attard:    

… on the basis of when someone was born. So all baby boomers don’t have an issue with technology, for example, and-

Tim Webster:

No, that’s right.

Jo Attard:    

… and not all millennials have a difficulty with face-to-face communication, although there are tendencies that would suggest that both might be truth for some.

Tim Webster:

Yeah, right.

Suzy Yates:  

Now, as you say, we’ve all got different expectations from work, and so do you notice that there is a problem with generations getting on?

Jo Attard:

I think there’s often more made of this than actually happens. There was actually some research done not long ago that suggests that that’s not the case, although I suppose I’ve seen in some workplaces yes and others no.

Jo Attard: 

I think the major differences come with the amount of time, and sometimes commitment that different generations stay in a job or even the number of hours a day that people are prepared to be in the office and those sorts of things are really symbols and people can get a bit narky. The older ones can get narky about the younger ones just flitting off here and there.

Suzy Yates:  

Going for lunch. You think, “Lunch-

Jo Attard:  

Yeah-

Tim Webster: 

How dare they?

Jo Attard: 

… going for lunch.

Suzy Yates:  

… what’s that?” That’s right.

Jo Attard: 

But, then again, there were times in our generation that that was a big thing as well, so I think yes, definitely there is some changes, but I think often it’s the environment and the times, the economic times, for example, that will dictate some of that behavior.

Tim Webster: 

Yeah, look, we do jokes about the millennials around here but it’s all in good fun, and we all get on pretty well, but do older workers make “the” big mistake of stereotyping the young ones, do you think?

Jo Attard:  

Oh, I think so. I think so, yeah. I think the opposite’s true as well. One of the things I do is teach up at Macquarie Uni and I’ve got some lovely students in my classes who look at me and think I’m some ancient thing, and then when I start bringing out device, you know, my iPad and stuff like that, I think they’re a little bit shocked that I know how to turn it on, and I’m often quite surprised the insight that they bring to class that I wouldn’t expect. So I think we can all be a bit guilty of that.

Suzy Yates: 

Let’s look quickly through some of them. If you work with a pre-boomer, and they’re the ones born before 1946, what should we expect? ‘Cause there’s a few around here.

Tim Webster:  

Yeah yeah. Yeah, there is.

Suzy Yates:

Bob Rogers, who works down the hallway, not that we work with him on a daily basis, is 91. Still coming to work every day-

Tim Webster: 

Absolutely.

Suzy Yates: 

… and I just worship at the alter that he’s a 91-year-old still coming to work.

Tim Webster: 

Bless his heart. Yes, bless his heart.

Jo Attard: 

Fantastic. I’d love to be like that myself.

Jo Attard: 

Yeah, they’re really meaning face-to-face, so preferably one-on-one. They really like that one-on-one interaction, conservative in their communication style, obviously, and they really respect logic and logical arguments rather than something left field. They often do have a very black and white view on issues and things as well. [inaudible 00:04:35]

Suzy Yates: 

There’s a lot of nodding going on.

Tim Webster:

I’m not one of them. I’m a baby boomer. What about us?

Jo Attard: 

You’ll like this, Tim, because I think it’s probably you to a tee. Personable, like to get together, like to get together in meetings, so with a group of people, and really discuss, have vigorous discussions. Electronic communications is fine, as long as it’s supplementary and not the sole mean of communications, and really discuss the big issues is really it.

Tim Webster:  

Yeah, and we can’t go through all of them, but what’s next after the boomers? Is that Gen X?

Jo Attard: 

Yeah, Gen X-

Suzy Yates:    

Yeah, that’s the good generation.

Tim Webster:

Yeah yeah. Just ask them and they’ll tell you.

Suzy Yates: 

Yeah, that’s right. We’re the ones that are really easy-

Tim Webster:

Yeah, right.

Suzy Yates:

… to get to, we have a high work ethic, we get stuff done.

Tim Webster:  

All right, all right.

Suzy Yates: 

Give them a really difficult job and-

Tim Webster:  

God!

Suzy Yates:

Is that right, Jo? Am I on it?

Jo Attard:

Absolutely. Yeah, you got that to a tee. And really, there’s always been a bit of a tension between baby boomers and Gen X, funnily enough.

Tim Webster: 

Really?

Jo Attard: 

Because, I suppose, the baby boomers felt that they needed the right of passage was something very important, whereas the Gen Xs, really hard workers but also often were a little frustrated by baby boomers.

Tim Webster:     

Yeah, right.

Jo Attard:

Yeah, yeah.

Tim Webster: 

Yeah, no, well, let’s do the Gen Ys ’cause they’re the one that gets picked on the most, that generation, aren’t they? I think they probably are, aren’t they? Poor old Gen Ys. They get picked on.

Jo Attard:   

Yeah, they do, they do get picked on, and I think a lot of very good organizations now are actually making the most of all of the generations and instituting even things like reverse mentoring in their organizations to really capitalize on, you know, get the older ones to keep up with what’s going on by being mentored by the younger ones and vice versa, so the younger ones having, I suppose, access to the wisdom of the older generation. It’s a really, really good concept.

Tim Webster:

Yeah, could I just expand on that, Jo, ’cause that’s interesting. I mean, I have been around a long time and, if asked, more than happy to impart anything. But do sometimes the Gen Ys not want to ask, feel loathe to ask, embarrassed to ask, because oftentimes they don’t.

Jo Attard:

Yeah. Well, sometimes they think that they know it all as well, so [crosstalk 00:07:07]

Tim Webster:  

Well, I’m pleased you said that ’cause I wasn’t going to.

Suzy Yates: 

I was waiting for that one to come out, yes.

Jo Attard:

Yeah, I’m [crosstalk 00:07:12] surprised by that myself.

Tim Webster: 

There you go.

Jo Attard: 

Yeah, no, that’s very true. And sometimes they don’t want to ask because they don’t want to be embarrassed. They don’t want to be seen not to know.

Tim Webster:  

Yeah yeah. Okay. So the final thing: how do we get everybody together? Is that too hard?

Jo Attard:  

No it’s not. It’s not. I think that reverse mentoring is a really big thing. I think having really good leadership practices generally and respecting everybody’s … and even celebrating difference and celebrating what everybody brings to the workplace.

Suzy Yates:   

Yeah, you’ve nailed it there.

Tim Webster: 

Absolutely.

Suzy Yates: 

It’s the respect.

Jo Attard:    

Yeah, it is absolutely the respect and really embracing that. Making sure that communication styles adapt to today’s realities, making sure that everybody remains relevant to what’s actually happening in reality, keeping up with technologies and other things. Being a Luddite just doesn’t work in these days.

Suzy Yates:

And you can’t use it an excuse, can you?

Tim Webster:   

No, you can’t be a Luddite, no.

Jo Attard:

No, absolutely not. And also, I think, don’t let appearances deceive. The Gen X who comes in with the ripped jeans … or the Gens Z, sorry, comes in with the ripped jeans and looking like they have no idea often will come up with the brightest ones, so don’t discount that. But also, make sure that we keep up with what’s going on as well. I think that’s really important.

Suzy Yates: 

Hey, Jo.

Jo Attard: 

Yeah.

Suzy Yates:  

Guess who’s wearing the ripped jeans today? Guess who’s the hippest of all? Tim Webster. Ripped jeans!

Tim Webster: 

Your friendly host here with the ripped jeans in the knee. There you go, Sue.

Suzy Yates:    

But did you do that on purpose or did you just catch it on the end of the desk?

Tim Webster:  

That’s exactly right.

Suzy Yates: 

You didn’t know you were-

Tim Webster:   

No, I didn’t know.

Suzy Yates:   

… making a fashion statement.

Suzy Yates:   

Hey, Jo. Thank you so much.

Tim Webster:   

That’s great, Jo. Thanks.

Suzy Yates:    

Lovely to have you on the show.

Suzy Yates: 

Jo is with peopleedge.com.au is the website to go and have a look at all the wonderful work that she does. PeopleEdge Coaching and Consulting, peopleedge.com.au.

ENDS.