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Afternoon Shift

Workplace Wednesdays: My cubemate won't friend me...because he doesn't know what Facebook is

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Just as technology has evolved, the workers using it are becoming younger and savvier. How can they co-exist with older employees who didn't grow up with computers? (Flickr/Blake Patterson)

Editor's Note: Today we kick off a new series that will delve into the issues that dominate the place where we spend most of our time-the office. We're calling it Workplace Wednesdays.

We've all seen it at work. The cubemate who insists on sending faxes asks the kid who's never even used a fax machine where it's located. "Um, where's the WHAT?" It's the collision of the generations! More people are putting off retirement and staying in the workforce, and those employees are forced to work side by side with the eager, overly-educated, tech-savvy rookies. Can the two really get along? Gary Grossman says, "Yes", but not without some proper attention and care by company management. Grossman is co-author of Becoming a Successful Manager: Powerful Tools for Making a Smooth Transition to Managing a Team, and founder of Venn Strategy Group, a coaching and consulting firm. Grossman teaches companies how to create what he calls a "mosaic staff"-an environment that allows employees of all ages and abilities to work together to create the most efficient and successul office.

In his book, Grossman and co-author J. Robert Parkinson break classify workers into 4 groups:
Traditionalist: Born between 1927-1945, comfortable with lengthy meetings and very loyal to the company
Baby Boomer: Born between 1946-1864, think work is about long hours and look for praise
Generation X: Born between 1965-1980, ethnically diverse and prefer flexibility at work
Generation Y: (often known as the Millennials): Born between 1981-2000, very tech-savvy and seek out personal growth from managers

That last group has been garnering a lot of attention at the workplace. And it's not all good. In this AOL article, David Schepp writes about a recent interview with Gen Y expert Erica Dhawan. Dhawan says today's young people are so immersed in technology that they can assume their way is the best way, not leaving a lot of room for outside input. But our  young cohorts are not all bad. They can offer fresh, great ideas but may just need proper guidance, say Jeanne Meister and Karie Willyerd in the Harvard Business Review article "Mentoring Millennials". It may not be through all the conventional ways of one-on-one meetings between boss and charge, but could mean connecting with someone you've never even met in person, labeled by Meister and Willyerd as "anonymous mentoring." They also recommend "group mentoring", allowing input from all generations that make up the staff. Whatever the method, the reality is that Millennials will continue to be the dominant group at the office so it's probably wise to ensure that they're working well with their older colleagues.

Workplace consultant Gary Grossman joins Steve Edwards Wednesday on Afternoon Shift to explain the characteristics of the different generations, and how they all can get along. So, your co-worker may not confirm your friend request, but at least he'll finally know what Facebook is. And, maybe you'll learn how to use a Fax machine!

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