Merge's Blog

Intergenerational conflict arising from dated policies and procedures?

Last week I was working with a group of about 60 leaders in a large energy company, focusing on helping them maximize performance in their multi-generational work teams. A lot of our dialogue centered on the intergenerational conflict that arises from differences in values and work styles between the four generations in today’s workplace, and the influencing factors that created those dissimilarities. As our discussion progressed, one of the participants made a very insightful comment. “It occurs to me,” she said, “that our policies and procedures were written by Traditionalists, to fit their values, work styles and work ethics. But, for the most part, the people who are following and implementing these very rules and guidelines are not Traditionalists, since most of them are no longer with the company. Instead, Boomers, Generation Xers and Millennials, people who have significantly different work styles and workplace perspectives, are living with the implications and outcomes of the ‘policy manual’. No wonder they are frustrated,” she went on, “even though the Traditionalists have gone, the intergenerational conflict lives on through the policies and procedures.”

As soon as she spoke, I realized how astute her comment was. The Traditionalist work style is rooted in a military authoritarian chain of command with an emphasis on conformity, discipline and duty before pleasure. Not surprisingly, policies and procedures created by them likely reflect these values. But the three younger generations have shifted towards consensus and collaboration with an emphasis on flexibility, individuality and personal gratification. Which gives considerable insight into why so many of them chafe at what they perceive to be inflexible and impractical policies and procedures.

If you work in a large organization (or even if you work in smaller organization), there are likely several policies in your company’s rulebook that annoy and aggravate you. Were they written by Traditionalists who are now long gone? What (if anything) would it take to change or at least partially modify some of these standards? Please share your thoughts.

P.S. If you are leading a multi-generational team (ranging in age anywhere from 20 to 70), then view some sample pages from my new book – Generations Exposed: Unexpected Insights Into the People You Work With. Written and designed as an easy-to-use reference guide, and illustrated to help you compare and contrast the differences among the four generations quickly, it’s an essential tool to help you capitalize on the potential that every person — whether a colleague, your boss, or your employee — brings to the work relationship.

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