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Zaid Mohamad

IN any organisation, there’s a high chance that a few generations co-exist in its fold.

The generation gap between young and old in turn produces differing habits, beliefs and idealism.

Clashes and differences of opinion only serve to further fuel already strained relationships, resulting in frustrations on both sides.

A family is also an organisation and thus would also experience this phenomenon. Typically, at least three to four generations would be crossing paths on a daily basis.

Unfortunately, the gap may become wider if each generation stubbornly sticks to their own way without considering the other generations’ views and needs.

Whether at home or work, we should leverage on this generational gap for everyone’s benefit. One way to do this is to recognise that each generation has its own strengths and weaknesses.

I always think the letter “X” in Generation-X stands for “experience”, while the letter “Y” in Generation-Y denotes “technology”. This has helped me in helping clients to bridge such gaps.

JOINING FORCES

I recall an issue faced by a major client in its Engineering and Maintenance department, which comprised a 50-50 per cent split of Gen-X and Gen-Y.

At the end of every month, the Gen-X employees would reluctantly print a thick report and go through it diligently.

Sometimes, it would take them a few days to diagnose a faulty machine and identify the problems.

Meanwhile, some of the Gen-Y employees commented that it was all a waste of time and that they could do it in a matter of hours.

This in turn irked the older employees who thought the younger ones weren’t serious about safety and cost.

But this was far from the truth. As I moderated the session, I discovered that the younger generation saw an opportunity to use computers to scan and diagnose the machines.

The older generation had never heard of such applications. They allowed the young ones to prove their point. True enough, the diagnostic was completed in just three hours.

The problem was that the Gen-Y employees didn’t know how to interpret the data.

This was when a beautiful collaboration emerged. While the young cut short the process, the older ones provided their experience and wisdom to analyse the situation.

Everybody went home happy.

BUILDING A BRIDGE

We can learn a lot from this; namely, that we can never do it alone.

By engaging those from different generations, ideas can become bigger and bolder.

I recall an old African proverb that says, "If you want to go fast, you go alone. But if you want to go far, you go together."

When you see the different generations teasing one another and laughing together, you know the objective has been achieved.

But it’s far from over because there are many younger employees joining the workforce every day. We have our work cut out, to convince them to be part of the bigger family. We must work harder to bridge the gap.

But it all seems more positive and optimistic now. Because once we’re able to chip at the generational barriers, we can forge forward until the walls crumble, and proceed to build that bridge that can bind us together.

Zaid Mohamad coaches and trains parents to experience happier homes and more productive workplaces. Reach him at [email protected].

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