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The New Norm: Generational Differences — Adjusting to a Virtual Work Environment

Updated: Apr 7, 2020

PART I - DEFINING THE TIMES

Given the recent global pandemic, economic downturn and fluctuating, if not fully unstable, job market, it is important for employees to be flexible and focus on effectively working together in a new world. All five generations in the workplace have been thrust into challenging situations brought on by the novel Coronavirus, but as is the case in many crises a silver lining does exist. Together, we must learn to manage these unexpected changes lest our companies fail and we, as individuals, suffer the consequences.


Relationship building is an increasingly pertinent issue in virtual working environments containing employees from various age groups. As current events force us to delve fully into concepts of remote work and virtual meetings, gaps among the five generations in the workforce are bound to exacerbate. Noted differences among these generations produce workplace conflict, which ultimately creates employee tension and alters industry dynamics. Such unhealthy conflict is most prevalent in times of difficult change, like now.


THE GENERATIONS

Each of the five generations mentioned above presents distinct personality traits and distinguishable working skills that shape our everyday work environments, virtual or otherwise. Understanding co-workers’ personality traits and actively bridging generational gaps through effective communication and the utilization of emotional intelligence will help organizational teams not only excel, but also learn more, form better interpersonal relationships and find fulfillment in their work. Whether in-person or remote, these benefits create better employees, enhance morale and increase productivity.


Traditionalists born before 1946

Growing up around the same time as the shaping of the U.S. military as a force to be reckoned with, Traditionalists are characteristically respectful, task-oriented and carefully follow directions. Qualities such as conformity, logic, loyalty and discipline have helped members of this generation rise to the highest levels of corporate employment throughout their tenure. Although many have retired, a new trend is seeing people of this generation reentering the workforce, perhaps due to the great esteem they feel in upholding a company’s history or because they are bored within retirement. Their current weaknesses stem from unfamiliarity with technology. An adjustment to virtual work environments could pose difficult for this group, as coworkers express frustration at the Traditionalists' inability to catch-up.


Baby Boomers 1946-64