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Generation Y in the workplace: How to foster positive teammate relationships

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It’s a fact that many of us know quite well: Different generations have different values. This is never more clear than when younger and older generations­ mix in the workplace.So, what’s an agency to do? Begin planning for the generational shift now, so you’re ready to mitigate issues and diffuse conflict should it occur. Generation Y (individuals born between roughly 1980 and 1995, also dubbed “Millennials”) will have quite different values and communication styles than older employees, and being prepared is your best defense!Whether you’re just beginning to add Millennials to your agency mix or already have a decent  spread of generations among team members, consider keeping waters calm by mixing a few of these ideas into everyday operations:

Welcome teams
Build internal project teams that consist of multiple-aged workers. Although it may seem easier and less stressful to pair like-minded individuals together, your agency will benefit more from the diverse opinions and discussions. You’d be surprised at how quickly varying perspectives can evolve an idea from good to great (and, not to mention, make it more relatable to your constituents who are likely from different generations).

When creating groups, allow for time within the workday for teammates to get to know each other better, before the potential stress of the project or task-at-hand settles in. Consider outfitting each “team” in color-coordinated Men’s and Women’s Polo Shirts to wear on team meeting days, or give each group matching colored Coffee Mugs to increase the feeling of solidarity. Consistently monitor group progress and dynamics to ensure teammates remain friendly and respectful.

Embrace diversity
Publicly celebrate employee differences. Consider holding regular recognition “ceremonies” that celebrate what makes your agency’s employees unique and what specific contributions have positively impacted constituents. By publicly shining the spotlight on employees of all ages, you’ll foster camaraderie between teammates of all generations and help everyone recognize that age diversity in the workplace ultimately carries more benefits than adversity.

Try holding the ceremonies over lunch—so that attendance will be high—or make it a true event by holding one per quarter at a fun venue. At the beginning of each quarter, let the team vote on what types of prizes will be given to those who are recognized. Consider putting items on the table for voting that everyone will love to work toward, like embroidered His and Her Fleeces, Laptop Totes or MP3 Players.

Address any issues head-on
Organizations with multiple-aged workers cannot tolerate any brooding conflict between employees. Such situations can quickly spiral out of control, creating an even larger agency fiasco. If you sense a potentially debilitating situation brewing, approach the issue assertively and attempt to get to the root of the problem as quickly as possible.

Perhaps the employees at-hand don’t understand each other’s work or concentration habits. Maybe there’s a communication barrier at the core of their relationship woes. No matter the problem, by intervening swiftly, you’ll be more likely to salvage the relationship and proactively work toward a solution that all are comfortable with and can learn from.

Keeping relationships cool between Boomers, Gen X and Millennials is an important component to retaining Generation Y employees for the long haul. Once you’ve mastered generational relationships, you’ll be well on your way to reaping the benefits of having Millennials on your team. From their enthusiasm and passion to their unbridled commitment to making a difference in the world, you’ll be happy you made the effort today.

For additional tips on recruiting, motivating, communicating with and retaining Generation Y employees, read our related Blue Paper®.

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