Want to make a meeting interesting? Bring up the subject of generations. Then just sit back and listen.
I’ve been in countless meetings over the last few years where at least a portion of the meeting was spent discussing generational differences in the workplace and the effect of these apparent differences. While the discussions have varied, the one constant in each of these meetings is that those in the discussion are split in their ideology – some believe generational differences play a large role in our interpersonal work relationships and others believe the topic of generational differences is a passing fad. In each of these meetings, however, there are always a few who wisely explain that what we attribute to generational differences may in fact be a lack of understanding as to how others want to be related to. This lack of understanding may come because of age or it may come because of a myriad of other attributes affecting each individual – culture, religion, the way someone was raised, educational opportunities, etc.
If you’re struggling to relate to and support those in your organization because of generational differences or other differences, I offer three suggestions to help you bridge the gap. And since it’s Halloween, I selected the acronym BOO to help you remember these three tips.
Be transparent: If you’re struggling to understand how to best relate to and support your colleagues, tell them. Let them know you want to meet their needs and support them in your role but you don’t fully know how best to do so. This simple action will begin to break down barriers that exist.
Organize “touch base” meetings: Whether or not you formally supervise the individual(s) you are struggling to relate to and support, organize set times to touch base with them and further discuss how you can best meet their needs. This doesn’t need to be a formal meeting, but could be a monthly walk to the local coffee shop, bakery, or frozen yogurt place (my personal favorite).
Offer to change: When discussing how you can better support your colleagues, suggestions may be provided to you that cause you to feel defensive. Remember, this is about them, not you. If you make the person you’re speaking with feel uncomfortable or guilty for providing suggestions of how you can better support them, they’ll be less likely to be honest with you and the barrier between you may grow in size. Be proactive and offer to make changes. Be humble in accepting their feedback.
The “BOO” method applies not only to coworkers, but to members, sponsors, or community partners you are struggling to relate to and support.
Bill Graham says
I think you addressed this subject very well, Meghan! Not just because I agree with you … and not just because I am trying to reach across generational lines … but because generational lines seem to disappear when you are trying to help the other person, and you are willing to change your behavior in order to help. That is what you suggest … thank you!
Meghan Morgan says
Thank you so much, Bill! I am glad you liked it (and agree).