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Thriving in the Multi-Generational Workplace

Four strategies for working well with colleagues of all ages

generational differences in workplace

Brook Pifer/Gallery Stock

How to thrive with different generations in the workplace.

One of the most confounding challenges I faced as a CEO was adapting to the different generational wants and needs of my staff. With 21-year-old program managers and a 66-year-old director of finance, even the simplest teambuilding outing required deep thought and careful planning. It wasn't about age: it was about work ethic, philosophy and culture. And it was hard to navigate.

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Workplace culture is shifting, and building productive relationships with all generations is essential to success. Because learning from younger employees doesn't fit the traditional mentor/mentee framework, the landscape can seem foreign. Life Reimagined asked marketing gurus Linda Kaplan Thaler and Robin Koval, authors of, GRIT to Great: How Perseverance, Passion and Pluck Take You From Ordinary to Extraordinary, for tips on connecting well in the new world of work.

You Have More in Common Than You May Think

As the first post 9/11 generation, Gen Z didn't grow up with rose-colored glasses and the everybody-gets-a-trophy mentality. This generation understands you have to have GRIT to succeed: guts, resilience, initiative and tenacity. They admire what coworkers have accomplished and know that they can learn as much from you as you can from them. While Gen Z shares our natural inclination to be gritty, Millennials are figuring out how to develop their grit as they enter their thirties. In many ways, they are going through the same soul-searching as Boomers.

Technology Levels the Playing Field

To succeed in your first, second or third act, you must embrace technology and social media. It's the price of entry in today's world. The good news is that it is changing at such an unprecedented pace, everyone needs to keep learning and adapting to be at the forefront. Don't be afraid to ask questions. Take a look at the Apple Genius Bar. Every generation is represented behind the counter.

Everybody's Looking for Love

If you're reinventing your career, chances are you want to do work you love, not just a job that provides income. This is something the younger generations believe right from the start. Gen Z and Millennials are more interested in doing something they love versus climbing the corporate ladder. In fact, linear career advancement is being replaced by horizontal expansion and in some cases freelance experiences. Gone are the days when an individual spends 30 years at one company. This "do well and do good" approach can be a terrific advantage for finding a new vocation.

Ignore Your Echo

We are all creatures of habit. If you're looking to make a big change, you have to be prepared to let go of your echo—that you need to earn a certain amount, or your geography. Where you are is not who you are. Instead, get ready to make connections—through LinkedIn, social media, meet-up groups, technology and your existing and likely vast network. These connections will no doubt connect you to a very rewarding next chapter.