Do you understand age and generational diversity - and how this shows up at work?
Do you promote age and generational inclusion in your teams and workplaces?
I hope so - it's a vital skill. I've led webinars, facilitated workshops, and written blogs about intergenerational teams and workplaces. (Check them out at the bottom of this blog). Why? Because leaders and teams have recognised that some of their operational tensions may stem from generational misunderstandings.
This blog is focused on ways that we can grow our intergenerational intelligence - or Gentelligence. What is Gentelligence? Well, it was coined by Dr. Megan Gerhard, and in her book, Gentelligence, she states:
Gentelligence champions every generation and is born from intergenerational curiosity. It’s a willingness to understand how people who have grown up under different times view things in different and meaningful ways... Gentelligence pushes back on the idea of generational competition, replacing it with the idea that people of all ages can benefit from the potential of intergenerational power.
Do generations even matter?
In short: yes. Generations absolutely affect people at work.
Generations are defined by events and experiences. Each generation has access to particular knowledge, experiences, and opportunities during its most formative years that prior and future generations do not. And this matters.
Pew Research Center noted the following in a 2015 research summary:
‘An individual’s age is one of the most common predictors of differences in attitudes and behaviours...Age tells us two important things about someone: their generation and approximate place in the lifecycle. These experiences have a significant and lasting impact on how people live, work and interact with others.'
While we want to stay away from stereotyping and labelling, we need to move into awareness, understanding and gentelligence because intergenerational teams are here to stay! Which means your ability to build age-and-generation-inclusive teams and workplaces - is foundational.
4 ways to grow your Gentelligence
Luckily for us - our intelligences are like our muscles: They can grow with deliberate effort and exercises. 💪💪 Here are some exercises to strengthen your generational intelligence.
1️⃣Be a coach 📣
Get to know the individual person you’re working with; it’s the best way to avoid putting people into boxes. Regardless of age, ask questions that matter in your coaching sessions. This will help you understand what brings the best out of the person.
Here are a few suggestions to start:
How do you work best?
What ways of working don’t bring out the best in you?
What do you enjoy doing / strengths do you have?
What does it look like when you get stressed?
What’s your communication / conflict style?
How do you like to be recognised?
What experiences impact how you show up at work and what do you expect from others?
How can others get the best out of you?
How do you like to collaborate and brainstorm?
How will I know if you’re upset with me?
How will I know if you’re happy and content?
What expectations do you have of me, as your leader?
2️⃣Check your generational biases
Dr. Megan Garhard and her Gentelligence co-authors suggest applying the D-I-E technique as a way to check your bias. Describe, interpret, explain.
🔎Describe the behaviour.
🧠Recognise your automatic interpretations.
💡Evaluate alternative explanations.
Here’s an example you might have noticed within your teams:
🔎 Describe the behaviour 🔎 Michelle is pulling out her laptop and typing, even though we are having a team meeting right now. She's distracted and distracting.
🧠 Note the automatic interpretation 🧠 She’s being rude. She isn’t paying attention to what’s going on and is probably working on something else.
💡Evaluate alternative explanations 💡 She does seems to be engaged in the meeting - she’s asking questions and offering input. Maybe she’s taking notes to use later.
A lot of these misinterpretations boil down to clarity. Have you and your teams set clear expectations of behaviours and ways of working? That's another way to show your gentelligence - so let's make it the next action. 👇 👇
3️⃣Set clear expectations and ways of working
Haydn Shaw’s generational sticking points can help here. ❓❔ A generational sticking point happens anytime different generations working together would naturally answer a question differently. ❓❔
Review these twelve areas in your team to make sure there aren’t tensions or misinterpretations within your team:
Communication: What is the best way to interact with my coworkers? What communication channels do we use?
Decision making: How do we decide what to do? Who is involved?
Dress code: How casually can I dress? What does 'professionalism' look like?
Feedback: How often do I want input?
Fun at work: How much fun is allowed at work?
Knowledge transfer: How do we pass on critical knowledge?
Loyalty: When is it ok to move on?
Meetings: What should happen in our meetings?
Policies: Are policies rules or just guidelines?
Respect: How do I get others to respect me? What behaviours show respect?
Training: How do I learn best? What does onboarding and upskilling look like in our team?
Work ethic: How many hours are required? When must I work them? How do we know if someone is a 'good worker?
Flex what you can
People want autonomy. It's a basic human need - regardless of age, stage and generation. And for a lot of people autonomy comes in the form of flexibility.
One helpful exercise is to think about your business necessities vs business preferences. This is an important distinction.
A business necessity is anything involving health & safety or things that could risk losing your customers, your money making, or your funding.
Preferences: Everything else.
In your teams define what specifically is a necessity and needs to be done in a specific way. Then recognise that everything else is likely a preference - and will have the abilitiy to be flexed to the individual person or to the team.
📖✍️👩💻Other age / generation related content I've authored in the past few years 📖📚✍️👩💻
The 5G conversation we should be having (blog, 2020)
5 Generations at work (webinar & notes, 2020)
Fighting Ageism (webinar, 2021)
Fighting Ageism (notes, 2021)
Ageism: The dumbest bias (blog, 2022)
Generation Z at work (webinar, 2022)
Generation Z at work (notes, 2022)
🧠🧠 We did a blog series on different biases at work. You can find that here.
So, we decided to start an intelligence series as well. Over the next few months, you'll find different intelligence breakdowns and actions you can take to strengthen it yourself. 🧠🧠
Increase your intelligences (webinar & notes, 2023)
Increase your intelligences (blog, 2023) - Check out different intelligence blogs here!