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Who, What, When, Where and Why!

As a new learning experience, I have been working with a self directed ‘Community of Practice’ (CoP) team, through my Graduate studies at Royal Roads University in the Professional Communications program. Five of us, of varied ages, vocations and geographical locations have come together virtually on a weekly basis, with a common interest in exploring different facets that relate to Inter-generational Communications. After creating a formal charter and premise for the purpose of our group we are able to be there for each other to provide an opportunity to share information, experiences, knowledge and opinions in an attempt to develop a deeper level of understanding. Our collective contributions provide a broader platform of knowledge with which to expand each of our personal learning.

All The Buzz

Inter-generational communications is a hot topic these days in the communications realm and it could be because there are 5 active generations combined in the work space of most organizations. Reviewing the scope of communications to realize any gaps or misalignment may help to resolve future negative inter-employee discourse from occurring. The foundation for successful engagement between conflicting generations may prove a challenge and this CoP chooses to explore those dynamics .

Understanding the values, cultures, technology and predetermined stereotypical beliefs of our own and different generations can shed some light on complicated communications methodologies and practices in workplaces. First, lets understand a breakdown of the generations by age by looking here.


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Stereotypes

Generational stereotypes also intersect some of the more commonly thought of stereotypical categories including: ethnic, religious, gender, geographical and educational diversity. Ageism stereotyping is less recognized but equally important as a generation of Baby Boomers begin to kick up a fuss about their rights to continue working past the typical age of retirement. Or, for being the object of cost savings coming from upper management. Remember – 50 years ago this was the same generation that brought the Women’s Liberation Movement to the forefront of the cultural and political consciousness and the generation who were in created the technology that put a man on the moon. This is not a generation that has nothing to offer or will sneak away quietly into retirement.

Considering the age factor alone in this discussion of stereotyping, the impact of Stereotype Threat research provides profound information about generations that result in negative relationships, leading to decreased production, lack of self esteem, and workplace hostility, just to name a few. A study by Cheryl Countryman states “in earlier research on cognitive ageing the results based upon the performance of older adults may have been influenced by stereotype threat where older test participants may have experienced stress, related to perceiving that they would be negatively stereotyped (Wout, Shih, Jackson, & Sellers, 2009). This experience may also be repeated in the work place. The fear that any errors or failure to produce a product or perform a task at optimal efficiency may be perceived as being related to being older rather than to other factors such as the effects of feeling that one’s job performance is being unfairly scrutinized.” (2016)


“participants may have experienced stress, related to perceiving that they would be negatively stereotyped”

There is support for Baby Boomers who aren’t quite ready to hang up the hat and collect their gold watch. People are living longer and healthier lives, women in particular who are not financially prepared for retirement and others feel at the prime of their professional lives so choosing to continue an encore career is completely feasible. Boomers are working longer and remaining employed well past their perceived expiry date. The reasons vary, but the results are the same, that if they must do so with the stigma of ‘ageism’ on their back, productivity may suffer due to stereotyping and inter-generational communication that perpetuates those stereotypes. Let’s be clear, this is only one example of ageism, the ‘older’ do not hold ownership on discrimination. There are as many examples of ageism directed at youth in the workplace as there are older workers. In fact, some millennials claim the stereotype against them is completely wrong. This article by the BBC outlines some interesting facts regarding how Millennials really shape up in the work space evaluation and in many cases they exceed the expectations of both Generation X and Baby Boomers for productivity and loyalty.

Conclusion

The fact that ageism stereotyping is not mutually exclusive to one generation should provide direction and support to managers and owners, of organizations that to ignore stereotyping and communication methods in a workplace may be counter productive to overall successful results. Understanding the challenges and exploring the subject with employees to create strategies for productive communication and relationships is a part of successful leadership.

#Ageism, #IntergenerationalCommunication, #StereotypingSucks

References

Countryman, Cheryl, (2016) Walden University Scholar Works, Stereotype threat and other Work Attitudes of Older Workers, p. 48, doi: 10.1037/a0034937
Lancaster, Lynne, (2004), The Management Forum Series, When Generations Collide: Hot to solve the generational puzzle at work. Synopsis by Rod Cox
McCann, Robert, (2017), Oxford Research Encyclopedia of Communications, Aging and organizational communication, 2017, DOI:10.1093/acrefore/9780190228613.013.472
Meister, Jeanne and Willyerd, Karie., (2009), Harvard Business Review, Are you ready to manage 5generations of workers?, Retrieved from hbr.org/2009/10/are-you-ready-to-manage-five-g

Cheryl is a Grad Student at Royal Roads University studying her Masters in Professional Communications. As an Executive Director of a community based Small Business Organization, advocacy and business ethics are paramount to providing fair and ethical leadership in the business sector. 
As a Baby-Boomer herself, awareness about the vitality, value and worthiness of people over 50 as valuable contributors to the 21st century workforce,  is more than a passion, it is a human right!

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