With the number of workers over the age of 55 continuing to increase, the workforce now includes five generations for the first time in history.
What does that mean for you? That strange sensation — when you look around a room full of people and realise “I’m older than all these people” — is becoming more and more common.
Being older than your coworkers can be disorienting, but bridging a generational gap (or four) can also present specific challenges that may make teamwork tricky.
Here is some advice on how to relate with younger coworkers in ways that benefit everybody.
Know your strengths
First, you’ve got a lot going for you! According to several studies published by AARP, senior staff are more likely to show up on time, work hard, pay attention to detail and make informed decisions using past experiences.
The result? Unique value in the workplace. Even though it can feel a little strange to think of your age as a characteristic that gives you unique value, approaching your role in the workplace with a positive attitude about what you bring to the table can help a lot. It’s easy to forget that lessons learned from a history of work experience aren’t second nature to younger employees.
It’s hard to calculate the exact value of making efficient decisions and creating workable solutions based upon prior experience and overall knowledge, but it’s big.
Relating to younger coworkers in a way that helps you all get the job done starts with recognising your own value. Approach tasks and teamwork with an awareness of what everybody’s best at — especially you.
Get to know the people around you, and connect with them to the best of your ability. Finding common interest with co-workers is a great way to adjust to a new environment, and start building professional relationships.
A good approach is to ask around about people’s hobbies and tastes. Everybody’s interested in something. Once you’ve established a rapport, it’s much easier to work together.
Keep an open mind
Younger coworkers might have limited experience with intergenerational relationships other than with their own parents. They might assume you’re more set in your ways than you actually are. Showing that you’re flexible and adaptable can build trust and break down stereotypes.
Keep an open mind and realise that all five generations currently in the workforce have great ideas to bring to the table.
Share your experience
Look at your years of experience as a skillset just as valuable as any other. If you have knowledge that can help the team based on situations you’ve dealt with in the past, speak out. While your accumulated wisdom gives you unique value, it doesn’t help if you keep it a secret.
If you still feel like there’s a disconnect, ask around! With the rising numbers of older employees, one thing’s for sure: You’re not alone.
There are plenty of other who know how you feel, and plenty of experienced professionals who can help guide you through.
And if you’re looking for a job, visit our job board to browse your options.