Safety and the Multi-Generational Workplace

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There’s a common issue that a lot of safety professionals and HR professionals are talking about lately which is the generational divide. That right now in this time & history we have the biggest mishmash of different generations and age groups in the workplace working together than we ever have before. Part of that probably is that there’s just more generation definitions or categories then there used to be because of how fast technology is changing.  So…myself, I’m a generation x but by  birth year I could also be a Millennial. I don’t identify with one or the other all the time. I wouldn’t even say it’s 50/50. I think that depending on the situation, depending on what’s going on, I’m very firmly Generation X.  While on other things I’m very firmly Millennial. That can even change day to day. The most important thing that I hope that fellow safety professionals are thinking of when they think of the different generations in their work place, is that you can’t assume someone’s generation and follow all those stereotypes of what a millennial is or what a generation x or baby boomer or other generations might portray. That, a generation x person might have some millennial leanings or even baby boomer leanings. There’s a lot of people that depending on how they were raised or if they have multiple siblings or whatever differences there are…it’s just so different, so we can’t really assume anything about someone based on when they were born. That said, I know the biggest issue… or I shouldn’t say issue because that sounds so negative. The biggest concern right now is working with millennials. I cringe when I see social media posts even from fellow safety professionals about “These dang millennials, why are they doing this? Why are they not doing that?” and it just makes me think that we all have to take a step back. Especially those of us that are generation x and older by birth year and give the millennials a break.  Because we all were once just starting out in the profession too.  I know that a lot of us may have had some negative treatment or learned some things the hard way and I’m a big fan of once you know better, you do better. I don’t want millennials to have to learn some of the lessons I did…the hard way. So, I’m available to millennials…I try to do mentoring whenever possible whether formal or informal or just listen and not rush to judgement because someone is ten plus years younger than me.  That’s a huge thing. It’s just: not judging, not rushing to conclusions,  and not stereotyping just because someone is of a perceived age group. Because sometimes you might categorize them wrong because you think they are younger than they are or you might just be completely off because the person is not a typical millennial or not a typical baby boomer. I just think it’s important for everyone to just give everyone a fair chance and to just step back and listen to the other person. Especially safety professionals who may be frequently frustrated with millennials or think they are frustrated with millennials in their work place. You need to go the opposite way and befriend some of those millennials. You need to sit in a room and just listen and with no judgement. I think that you are going to find that you will learn something and if it helps to kinda step back into the first one to five years of your own career to think how that millennial might be feeling…and approach it that way…that could be a good start. Otherwise, it’s always good to just shut up and listen right? It’s always good to just listen to what the other person has to say, listen to where they are coming from, and maybe you can emerge from that conversation with some common ground and really get somewhere. When you are working with these multi-generational teams in your work place it’s important to not assume certain stereotypes are true just because of someone’s birth year or perceived birth year and also to listen. That’s the second thing…LISTEN. So, don’t assume. Listen to those other people. And it goes both ways. So…the millennials that are listening to this, listen to the other generations that are in your work place. I think we even have like a generation c, that is even younger than the millennials that are starting to emerge in our work places. So, millennials are no longer the youngest group in the generational mishmash that we have going on in our modern work places.  So, everyone just want to take a step back and don’t stereotype, don’t assume, and the second thing just listen to each other’s perspectives without judgement. Hopefully that can help. I don’t have any tips that are specific to dealing with millennials just like I don’t have tips that are specific to dealing with baby boomers because people all have different backgrounds. They all have different approaches and you really have to look at it that way. People are complicated. People have a lot of different things going on. Just because they fall into the same category as someone else due to birth year, it really doesn’t mean a thing. What do you do? What are your strategies for your multi-generational work place? What do you find works? Do you also listen without judgement or try to not stereotype and not assume something based on someone’s perceived age? I want to hear what you are doing at your work place and how it can relate to the safety culture, safety training, and getting that safety message across.

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