If different generations clash in the workplace, it can jeopardize an organization’s success. But in many cases teams are multigenerational. So the question is, how can teams avoid conflicts? We dove into how multigenerational teams look and feel in a recent study conducted in Germany and France.
Think about how many people on your team are from a different generation. Chances are there are several generations, depending on its size. If you’re a Millennial, your boss might be a baby boomer, and you might work closely with Gen X and Gen Z co-workers too. Each of these four generations brings its own experiences, expectations, and needs which can lead to friction and sometimes to misunderstandings. We learned that a significant portion of Millennial and Gen Z knowledge workers both in Germany (over 40%) and France (25%) feel their humor does not resonate with their colleagues. While this might seem insignificant, it can have a real impact on how people feel at work.
When it comes to work relationships, 30% of German Gen Z workers report that they don’t have a good relationship with their colleagues, and 27% of Millennials agree. By comparison, just 10% of the baby boomer generation feels the same way. These results raise the question: do these generations have different expectations or awareness of their workplace relationships, or are their experiences truly different?
We believe there’s more to it. Think about how different generations have grown up, how and when they were introduced to new technologies, what the economic conditions were when they entered the workforce, and how the world has changed since. These vastly different experiences have shaped their perspectives and behavior at work. However, they need to be acknowledged as they can impact how effective and efficient collaboration is within a team and across a larger organization.
Multigenerational teams are beneficial to both employees and organizations
To avoid these problems, organizations can create teams with employees from the same generation. But this isn’t a practical or scalable solution. Our survey found that in Germany, eight out of ten respondents, and in France, nine out of ten respondents are or have been part of a multigenerational team. Overall, those surveyed see many advantages to multigenerational teams:
- Employees of all generations believe that they benefit: In Germany, 51% (Generation X) and 53% (baby boomers) agree and in France, 37% (Gen Z) to 50% (Generation X) feel the same.
- Employees across age groups believe that working in multi-generational teams improves their personal development: In France, Gen Z (41%) and baby boomers (39%) are most likely to agree while in Germany it is Gen Z (41%) and Millennials (37%).
- 30% of Gen Z employees in both countries think that their teams achieve better results when working with peers from other generations.
- Finally, decision-makers from Germany and France agree with this statement at 44% and 43% respectively.
These results shouldn’t come as a surprise as many of us have had personal experiences that illustrate them. You might remember an instance where an older, more experienced colleague shared useful tips to make your work easier or a younger colleague shared a fresh perspective on how to solve a challenge.
So, leaders and managers must determine how to foster positive, productive, and efficient collaboration while preventing conflict in multigenerational teams. For a more in-depth look at our survey’s results and for guidance on how to make intergenerational collaboration work, read our new report “Intergenerational work – respectful cooperation instead of intergenerational conflicts” available in both German and French.