Conflict between the Generations
Because society has changed so rapidly, the family and life experiences of different generations have varied greatly. As a result, the values and experiences of the above three generations are quite different. Those differences are causing problems in the workplace right now.
In the past decade we have seen considerable friction between Boomers and Millennials. Millennials accuse Baby Boomers of not understanding the struggles they face because they grew up in a time when getting an education was more affordable and achieving economic success was easier. Boomers will fire back at Millennials that they are undisciplined and entitled and don’t want to put the work in to succeed. Generation X, sandwiched between the two, has hunkered down and tried to be left alone, out of any conflict.
Clearly, this has ramifications for family businesses. All of the generations currently engaged in the workforce have their own strengths and weaknesses. They have something significant to contribute. But they are not communicating very well with each other. There is a cold war happening with all sides becoming defensive and blaming the other generations for things that go wrong. There are ways to mitigate this conflict, but all sides need to be open to listening and communicating their points of view.
Can Technology Help Bridge the Gap?
Baby Boomers are currently in positions of the most power and authority in the workplace. One of the underlying complaints that younger generations have with Boomers is that they think they have all the answers. Baby Boomers, by virtue of living the longest, do have the most experience. They have many useful skills and have seen how business works and how the economy and people operate. They do have a weakness, however, and that’s technology. They are not nearly as adept or comfortable with current technology or as at ease with how fast today’s technology becomes obsolete and must be replaced.
In contrast, Generation X entered the computer age as teenagers and have spent their adult lives navigating those changes. MIllennials have grown up from childhood comfortable with a wide variety of interfaces and devices. They are the most comfortable with digital marketing and social media. Modern businesses utilize a number of complex technological solutions to operate. Involving Generation X and Millennials in choosing and implementing them allows them to take leadership in areas they are more adept at and to truly shine.
Transition is difficult, but family leaders who intend to pass on the family business to the next generation need to train them in the skills they will need to lead. They also need to allow them to take the reins in small and larger ways. If younger family members are involved and invested, they will be in a better position to take over when the time comes. Engaging their expertise in areas where they are comfortable and competent involves them, encourages them, and allows them to meet the needs of the company in ways that the older generation may not be able to. When done correctly, this is a win-win-win situation for current leaders, younger generations, and the company itself.
If your business is confronting challenges with generational conflict or would like assistance in any part of the transition planning process, contact us at Prometis Partners. We have experience solving interpersonal problems and can work with your company to create strategies that will help strengthen your younger generations so they will be competent to lead when it’s time for you to retire or make other changes to company leadership. Call us. We’re ready to help.