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Speaker: Make generational differences a positive in workplace through collaboration

May 18, 2017 Updated: May 18, 2017 at 4:38 pm
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A double exposure of the city of Colorado Springs and Pikes Peak May 17, 2009. Mark Reis, The Gazette

Employers should avoid making assumptions about generational differences in their workforce and give members of different generations more chances to work together on projects to build collaboration, according to a speaker Thursday at an employment law conference in Colorado Springs.

Bridget Morris of the Denver-based Mountain States Employers Council, which provides human resources information to more than 3,000 employers in Arizona, Colorado and Utah urged about 200 people attending the group's conference at The Antlers, a Wyndham Hotel that most employers will have younger employees supervising older workers but that doesn't have to set the stage for conflict. That starts with emphasizing the similarities and strengths of each generation rather than the differences and perceived weaknesses stemming from assumptions about each generation.

"Just because you were born in a certain year doesn't mean that is the generation you identify with," Morris said. "Who we are is much more shaped by internal factors such as how we were raised, the values instilled in us, level of acceptance by peers, birth order and family dynamic and level of education as well as external factors such as where we were raised, when we were born, historical events in our lifetime and our household environment. The key is to find collaborative projects that capitalize on the need everyone has to know their job is contributing to the good of the company."

That doesn't mean there won't be conflict between members of different generations, Morris said. That conflict often is the product of differing assumptions about work such as punctuality, respect for authority, work schedule and time off, rewarding good work and career advancement. She recommends employers identify behaviors that trigger conflict, discuss how that behavior affects coworkers and determine what each side of the conflict wants.

Employers also need to cultivate leadership among younger workers in the millennial generation, born between 1980 and 2004, and Generation Z, born since 2004, by providing opportunities for career advancement, treating all employees with respect and fairness, acknowledging their contribution and fulfilling a greater social purpose in their work, Morris said.

The council conducted the same conference in Loveland last week and will offer it in Denver May 25, Grand Junction June 1 and Salt Lake City June 8.

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Contact Wayne Heilman: 636-0234

Twitter @wayneheilman

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