Generational stereotyping at workplaces is not a new thing in today’s modern world. With the mainstream media using generational labels such as baby boomers and traditionalists, it is not hard to have generational stereotypes at work. Given the normalcy, most individuals may not even realize they are doing it in the first place.
Is your organisation guilty of generational stereotyping? Stereotypes of any form are harmful to your organisation or business. Some of these labels are untrue, misguided, and will hugely affect your business or organisation. The silent generations included those born between 1928 to 1945, followed by the baby boomers born between 1946 to 1964, the generation X, who were born between 1965 to 1980. Millennials are also commonly referred to as generation Y and include those born between 1980 to 1995, then enters generation Z, which is the lot born between 1996 to 2015. Working in a multigenerational environment helps a business understand and serve different audiences without any troubles. Every generation has its specificities and is unique. When there is a blend of all ages, your organisation benefits from enhanced productivity. Let’s learn the most actionable ways to avoid and deal with generational stereotypes at the workplace or organisation.
The truth is, stereotyping of any kind can cause a lot of harm to your organization. According to Jessica Kriegel in her book ‘Unfairly Labeled’ it is unfair and unreasonable to assume that people born within a span of 20 years have the same motivation and should be managed the same way. She argues that the human mind craves classification, and the tendency to categorize people according to their age may be holding your company back.
Following Forbes, stereotypes of generations in organizations would develop in the future as more generations, such as Gen Z fresh from college, join the workforce. The entrance of Generation Z into the employment pool and the rise of millennial employees into leadership/managerial roles are more likely to cause significant shifts in generational stereotyping in organizations.
Without any doubt, stereotypes of generations are doing more harm than good to any modern company. That’s why we have prepared a list of ways to effectively end generational stereotyping in organizations.
Here are some of the proven ways to help end generational stereotypes in your organization.
- Make time to discuss the generational stereotyping issue
Creating awareness is the first step towards a successful solution for generational stereotyping in an organization. Today, it should not be hard to find perfect examples that prove generational stereotypes are not valid. For example, there are many strategic and savvy young employees and 60-year-olds who are good at digital marketing. Bringing such examples into the light is a great way to change where someone stands concerning stereotypes of generation. You can use various forums such as town halls to b create awareness.
- Introduce/Improve Diversity and Inclusion Training Programs
Most organizations have diversity and inclusion training programs, primarily covering race and gender. However, most of these programs are not designed to address generational stereotyping. You need to improve these diversity and inclusion training programs to encompass other topics such as generational stereotyping. That can help each employee understand what difference each generation brings to the table, thus avoiding generational stereotyping.
- Stamp out the Use of Generational Labels within the Organization
The use of generational labels such as baby boomers or millennials is one of the primary reasons why generational stereotyping in organizations has taken root in the first place. Therefore, you should stop using these labels that often perpetuate stereotypes. Many employers may use these labels without even knowing they are doing it in the first place. For example, using the name ‘kids’ to refer to young employees in your organization is generational stereotyping.
- Build an Inclusive Workplace Culture
Building a more age-inclusive workforce is essential when looking to eliminate generational stereotyping in an organization. Creating a more age-inclusive workforce in your organization involves evaluating and assessing how various generations interact with each other. Next, uncover shared values and goals that contribute to a healthy interaction between different generations in the workplace. Lastly, leverage mentoring and reverse mentoring programs.According to research, older employees are likely to believe that their younger counterparts are more creative. On the other hand, younger employees believe that their older counterparts are more productive. Bringing these two generations together provides a learning platform for both parties while eliminating stereotypes of generations.
- Organize Role Plays during Corporate Events
Inviting people to role-play during training or other company events can be a great way to eliminate generational stereotyping in your organization. In these role-plays, one individual can play a member of a different generation while others treat them as a member of that group. Ask the role players to project how they think a member of the stereotypical group would interact with people around them. Both the players and audience would quickly notice that they make generational assumptions that may not necessarily be true. Role-playing is also essential in helping prevent generational stereotypes in organizations. You can do this by bringing people during company events or parties where you ask them to role-play a different generation member. The best thing to do would be to involve a typical stereotype in the process. At the same time, you also have to ask other group members to treat them as they do such members of a generation. The role of this exercise is to highlight how assumptions are made and how they affect the workplace and the people involved.
How Google has Eliminated Stereotypes of Generations
Google is one of the most well-known organizations in the world today. The company owes part of its success to eliminating stereotypes of generations. Google has succeeded in addressing generational stereotyping issues through improved inclusion and diversity training programs. Additionally, the use of fulfilment training programs has made it easier for Google to create exceptional intergenerational teams to handle tasks and projects in the organization. The company has also introduced programs such as ‘Bring Your Parents to Work’ days to encourage intergenerational involvement in the workplace.
Undoubtedly, generational stereotyping is doing more harm than good to modern organizations and companies. Although the human mind craves categorization, we should train ourselves to avoid stereotyping a whole generation of people. It is important to start treating people with respect and as individuals. Rather than categorizing people, we should move past conventional stereotypes and start thinking about how we can leverage the disparities for the good of the organization. That way, we can avoid generational stereotyping that threatens productivity in our workplaces.
Written by Dr. Irène Y. Kilubi.
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