The guy felt threatened, and he wasn’t going to be PC about it. “We're in big trouble if we turn this company over to Millennials,” he said in a loud voice. His colleagues glanced away, grew silent.
In that uneasy silence, I felt a surge of recognition. He was the loudest skeptic in the room, but not the only one. We all have struggles when it comes to working with other generations. Now and then when I run into open animosity like his, it’s oddly refreshing—not because it’s OK, but because it’s genuine.
Why do we find it easy to assume the worst about another generation? Sure, it’s hard working with people who aren’t like us. But the problem runs deeper than that. The feelings run deeper than that.
The answer may lie in our history. Studies show that age and gender prejudices are the hardest to overcome. That may be because they are our oldest biases. Preconceptions about age and gender have been with us since humans evolved. Other biases, like those about religion or ethnicity, and deep and they're harsh. But ageism is older. To some degree it's visceral. Old wiring.
But here’s the bottom line. We cannot afford old and faulty wiring. Generational bias is bad for teams and bad for business. Tweet This When hostility or dismissiveness about another generation is tolerated, you can forget innovation, engagement and collaboration. Money and energy drain right out of the company.
In an unforgiving economy and in the midst of unprecedented change, we need the skills of every generation. That’s why I was excited about beginning a conversation with Big Voice Guy. The only way to address generational bias is to wade in and pull the pieces apart, separating facts from fears. Unlearning ageism and learning Generational Inteligence is work worth doing.
President of Generational Edge, Amy Lynch has written and spoken about the generations for 15 years. She has spoken to 100s of groups from MTV and Comcast to Boeing, J&J and the staff of the U.S. Senate. Amy has been quoted in national publications, including The Washington Post, USA Today, Boston Globe, Huffington Post, Chicago Tribune and NBC Evening News, among others.