The Toronto Organizational Development Network offered a workshop that was an exploration of “The Four Generations at Work”. All four generations were represented at the half day event. This workshop was framed as an exploration that was geared to building bridges rather than pigeon-holing people into artificial constraints.

This actually is not as easy to do as it sounds. The facilitators took great care when designing the workshop, to set the context and design the exercises to surface underlying assumptions and filters and to create genuine conversation geared at exploring this topic. However, the reality of how blind we might be to our beliefs showed up in very subtle ways thereby illustrating to me just how challenging it is to foster meaningful dialogue, understanding and appreciation. North American culture and perhaps our work culture in particular does not include appreciation of different generations as part of the fabric of our day to day interactions. Misconceptions can surface and even be reinforced depending on how the topic is approached.

What did emerge as the morning went on is that personality type and developmental level play as much or more of a role in understanding differences between individuals than any differences resulting from date of birth. Reducing the conversation to focus on a catalogue of intergenerational generalizations misses an opportunity for deeper understanding. People can be married to their assumptions and beliefs and look only for examples that reinforce their worldview. They can do this and not be conscious that this is what is happening – instead they mistakenly feel that they have a corner on the truth.

On the other hand focusing more on what there is to appreciate about each other can build bridges. This may sound like a simplistic approach, but real conversation in the context of real work issues can afford the opportunity for that to happen.

At Context Management Consulting, cross-functional action learning groups have proven over and over to be an effective vehicle for having just these kind of conversations that not only help people come up with the best approaches to current challenges, but also allow for individuals to appreciate the value of diverse perspectives.

Category: Communication
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