Talking about Generational Differences with Baby Boomers and Traditionalists

Written by: Melissa Noyes, Cofounder/Web Coordinator

I’m taking a break from my social media series to write about an experience that we had last week that I think merits sharing (and I hope, commenting from our readers).

Last Friday, we had the opportunity to speak about generational issues in the workplace and engaging all generations in effective intergenerational teams to a group of higher-ups at a well-known agency (I’m being vague on purpose–no need to name names).   We gave the group a survey prior to our talk and it was very apparent that they were struggling with generational differences in the workplace–mainly in the areas of work ethic, communication, professionalism, flexibility, and responses to change.  We were happy to have this information is it provided the basis for our talk–using each of these challenges to talk about the values and characteristics that were playing out in all generations and what strategies work best for dealing with each of these challenges.  Sounds good, right? Wrong.

I’ll preface this next part by saying we were definitely not in our element–we didn’t have the opportunity to interact much with the group and it was a very straight-laced environment.  I’m talking speaking-from-a-podium-with-a-microphone here.  Needless to say, this group didn’t “get” us. 

So what happened?  Everyone usually loves our trainings.  They stay after to chat and process through what they learned.  However, this was the first time that we had spoken to a group comprised mainly of  boomers and traditionalists, and I think this played into the lukewarm reception of our information.  It left us wondering–how do we effectively market generational differences/workplace engagement to this demographic? 

It was clear that the topic was relevant and the information was needed based on the surveys we received.  It was also clear that there were some not-so-nice attitudes towards younger professionals coming from these higher-ups.  Was it harder for them to process information from us because we are the face(s) of Gen Y?  

I found this “letter” while going through my RSS feeds today, and I think it applies here.  It’s written to Boomers from Gen Y, and I think it accurately sums up some of what’s going on and hits on some of the attitudes that exist toward young professionals.  Take a minute to read it here.

At Catalyst, we strive to promote understanding between the generations in order to bridge a gap that seems, at times, to be getting wider and wider.  Our vision is that all generations will be able to draw on one another’s strengths and that the nonprofit world will thrive because of this mutual understanding.  Gen Y needs Boomers and Traditionalists to help them to become strong leaders and better professionals.  Boomers and Traditionalists can channel the creativity and tech-savviness of Gen Y to help make the nonprofits they lead even better.

What’s the best way to get this message to YOUR generation?  What are the barriers that exist between generations in your workplace?  We’d love to hear your opinions/comments so please feel free to leave them below.


About catalystxchange

Catalyst X-Change, Inc. is a 501c3 serving the greater Indianapolis area. Catalyst was founded by two Millennials (Kristin Clements-Effner and Melissa Noyes) with a passion and a vision for world change. We believe that significant and positive change can happen when individuals come together and match their passions with tangible actions. Our mission is to advance community through meaningful action.
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