Age Just a Number: Cohesive Office With Different Generations

Generational diversity poses interesting workplace situtations.

ByABC News via GMA logo
July 9, 2007, 7:01 AM

July 9, 2007 — -- Lois Schwartz had landed her dream job in event marketing.

"It was very exciting and I was so happy," she said. "It was a higher position than I had ever had before, and I was thrilled."

But the elation went sour as the 54-year-old quickly began to realize that she just couldn't work for a younger boss.

"Maybe that's my ego talking that thinks someone younger than me has less knowledge than I do," Schwartz said. "I think that it's very common for someone older to be a little resentful to someone who is 25 years younger telling you what to do."

Schwartz is not alone. Americans are staying in the work force longer than ever before postponing retirement or doing away with it altogether. At the same time, Generation Y those workers born between 1977 and 1991 now make up the largest segment of the work force at 80 million strong. So at some point all of us will work for or with people who aren't our age and who, through nature and nurture, bring different work styles and work ethics to their jobs.

As a work force, we've made great strides with tackling issues of diversity surrounding gender, race, ethnicity and even sexual orientation. But age is the new frontier; generational diversity is something that all of us workers and employers must pay attention to.

None of us can completely disavow ourselves of the work styles we bring to our jobs every day. But by removing the emotion and resisting the natural urge to judge people based on age and opening up the lines of communication more people will avoid the heartache Schwartz says she experienced.

It starts with the willingness to talk about our differences and not allow the issue of age and generations be a source of silence or friction. Remove the emotion even though it's easy to let emotions get the best of you when you're taking orders from someone who could be your kids' age. But this is business, not personal. And to succeed on the job and not drive yourself mad, it's key to focus on uniting, not dividing, based on those differences.