Lost for words | 1-in-5 Gen Z workers haven't spoken to colleagues over 50 in a year - what's going wrong?

1-in-5 Gen Z workers haven't spoken to colleagues over 50 in a year - what's going wrong?

There are many fundamental differences between young people today and the way our parents and grandparents were when they were younger.

Gen Z is often stereotyped as demanding, opinionated, outspoken, and the most willing of any generation to hold their employer accountable for their promises.

The uniqueness associated with Gen Z has either been celebrated or criticised – mainly down to their behaviour being misunderstood, in particular by older employees.

This disconnect is perfectly illustrated by a recent LinkedIn study that revealed one-in-five Gen Z employees haven’t spoken to a colleague over the age of 50 in the past year.

The same study revealed that in the inverse, 40% of those over 55 haven’t spoken to Gen Z colleagues in the same amount of time.

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Clearly, there is a growing issue in the workplace, especially within intergenerational companies, whereby staff from different ages – and therefore with different concerns and experiences – don't know how to communicate with one another, and so by default, are avoiding each other.

It goes without saying that this isn’t good for business, and employers must figure out how to best integrate their staff in a diverse company. The research suggests that despite Gen Z being confident in other ways, such as telling their managers exactly what they think and feel, they don’t always feel comfortable speaking to more experienced colleagues.

A different report says that a top reason for this is younger workers feeling they don’t have anything in common with older workers, because they don’t have a pet, spouse, or children, and are at a different point in their life.

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But without intergenerational communication, innovation, growth, and a healthy culture are all compromised. To foster an environment where this communication is present, employers must respect differences in these generations but enable opportunities for people to communicate in a way they’re comfortable with.

Face-to-face communication is valued by all generations, according to research, so creating opportunities for in-person meetings gives way to more informal points of contact.

Gen Z also says that development is a priority for them in the workplace. As an employer, you can utilise the experience of your older workers and create mentoring opportunities so that young people can fulfil their desire to learn whilst simultaneously building stronger intergenerational bonds.

Being aware that the young people at your firm may feel a fundamental disconnect from older colleagues should push you to create spaces for meaningful communication. Because ultimately, the quality of these relationships is a reflection of the quality of your business.

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