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Employment across generations

Workshop to help with communication

Published: Monday, January 27, 2014

Updated: Monday, January 27, 2014 23:01


William Guerra

As the American workforce grows to encompass four generations, miscommunications that fall between the ears of youth and those of their elder counterparts aren’t just clichés, they’re obstacles the Texas A&M’s Department of Employee and Organizational Development seeks to break down with its upcoming program, “Bridging the Gap: The Multigenerational Workforce.”

The program attempts to promote an understanding of the various ideals, values and work ethic of the different generations represented in the modern workforce. Jose Macias, one of the instructors of the workshop, said the workshop offers a unique opportunity to gain awareness of coworkers’ world view.

“This workshop offers insightful information and learnings on the four different generations in the workplace and best practices on how to be more effective at working with each other,” Macias said. “Because four generations are working side by side for the first time ever, learning about each generation and how we can better communicate with each other expands our understanding of our coworkers’ communication and working styles.”

Today, interactions among members of different generations are common within the workplace. Each generation exemplifies unique characteristics and the workshop seeks to allow employees to avoid miscommunications that may arise from not understanding the way another member approaches their work.

Tami Overby, another workshop instructor, said the class uses insights provided by the different generations themselves to allow participants insight into the mentality of their co-worker, which allows better communication among colleagues.

“You have the veterans or the silent generation, you have the baby boomers, Generation X and the millennials,” Overby said. “When we do the class, we put up the disclaimer that we are not stereotyping, we’re just trying to gain an understanding. That’s why we like it to come from the participants. We discuss how we might be perceived by others. When people feel disrespected, they forget that respect looks different to different people.”

Overby said the class is built to be interactive so that those participating can learn from each other the ways in which they differ.

“Our classes are very hands-on and participative,” Overby said. “So we do very little lecturing. Basically we have an understanding of the generations, we give a brief overview and then we split the class into the various generations and they tell how they perceive themselves. Basically, you learn about the generations and their characteristics and the events that shaped them.”

The class is offered about four times a year as part of EOD’s Diversity and Inclusion in the Workplace certificate program, which offers participants an opportunity to gain a larger understanding of the varied mentalities and cultures encountered on the job.

Bonnie McDonough, who participated in both the “Bridging the Gap” workshop and the certificate program, said she found both extremely interactive and informative.

“The classes you attend are very interactive, but more importantly they give you an opportunity to go to a variety of outside activities both on campus and around the community that expose [you] to different events that you would probably not attend,” McDonough said. “Then you journal about them so it really makes you think about what you got out of that program instead of just attending.”

McDonough said she enjoyed the workshop as well as the entire program. What she learned from the workshop was easily applicable to everyday interactions with the people she works with, she said.

“I enjoyed the fact that the four generations that were the topic of the presentation were all present at the workshop and could participate,” McDonough said. “I work with three of the four generations discussed in the class, along with the student workers who you can consider as a fifth generation. I think it has helped to understand their styles of work and not critique it. Just because it is different doesn’t mean it is wrong.”

The next workshop, open to all University employees, will be from 1:30-4:30 p.m. Tuesday in room 1402 of the General Services Complex. Those wanting to sign up can do so at EOD’s website.


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