There isn’t much compassion that goes around when we think of the multi-generational workplace. Compassion means to suffer with and when it comes to the multi-generational workforce, there’s a gap in between the “new school” and the “old school”. This is because we know well the trials and tribulations of our peers, but not that of those who have come before us, let alone those who will come after us. Believe it or not, we’re all in the same boat of career dramas – and, more importantly, even if we’re not conscious of it, we all go down together when the going gets tough.
I’m not going to say to the younger generation, “Oh, respect your elders, because blah, blah, blah,” as we know that just because someone gets older, it doesn’t mean they get wiser. The path of learning is a two way street on which the teacher is also the student. In other words, no matter if we’re 20 years younger or older, we can all learn, share, and teach each other something of value. That this exchange is what defines the learning process. At every age, we’re the student and the teacher. Here’s why:
Now, there are those older professionals who’ve been around the block, been knocked around a few times, and still seem to have the wind in their sails. They give the vibe that makes us say, “Man, wherever they’re going, I want to go there, too.” These are the mentors who I explained how to find and engage. The mentors are the people who have a lot to give for our benefit and for their good karma.
We young professionals don’t have to wait to be an old, crusty sailor to sail the tides of change: we’re already doing it with the rapid change of trends, technology, and globalization. Some older professionals get stressed out about rapid change and worry about their ability to keep up (mentally and physically). This is the chance for younger professionals to become teachers in their own right, by exchanging their practical knowledge for the wisdom of the mentors.
In my case, I was freelancing with an ad and creative exec 20 years my senior. It was fascinating to work with her because, while I knew the trends and tools, she had spot on insight and savvy business skills. Our exchange was exciting and motivating because we both knew there was so much more to learn. I brought in the new technological opportunities and she brought in her wisdom – it was, for me, a match made in work heaven.
Within each of us is inner wisdom that lies hidden until we can learn to connect and express it with each other. With a certain degree of consciousness of our own and the other generation’s limitations, this requires overcoming the boundaries, such as prejudice and agism, that stand between us. Because, at the end of the day, we’re all traveling down the same road of professional life – some further along than others and some who know the way better than the rest of us. Who knows what kind of magic can happen when all the colors of the experience spectrum collide when the intention to work together peacefully and harmoniously is collectively held.
Coach Leslie’s Questions To Ask Ourselves:
1. Who is the person who has a lot of wisdom in my work environment (age not being the deciding factor)? What message does their wisdom consistently say to me?
2. Knowing that I’m a teacher, too, how can I be a positive representative of my generation?
3. Is there someone of a different generation that I could be of service to? How?
4. What are the prejudices that I hold onto that affect my ability to relate to colleagues of different ages and backgrounds? How do these prejudices no longer serve me?
5. Can I think of a time when someone older or younger taught me something new? What did that experience tell me about learning?
Leslie Juvin-Acker is the contributing career and leadership expert at Malakye.com, a job board for the action sports and lifestyle industries based in Southern California.