How To Get Along With Younger Coworkers

25 Apr

So last week I wrote an article explaining how to get along with older coworkers.

And you know what? ALOT of people had a problem with it. Thankfully, I didn’t get any death threats. I don’t like those. They’re not cool.

But I just don’t understand what the huge controversy was.

Here’s the deal…we’re working in a multigenerational environment and it’s in everyone’s best interest to get along. Unfortunately, it seems that there are a lot of misconstrued ideas about both younger and older workers. Both parties have to deal with ageism, prejudices, stereotypes, and as a result, rather than working together, different generations end up ostracizing eachother.

Why can’t we be friends? Why can’t we work together? Why does it have to be so awkward?

So now that we’ve discussed how to get along with older coworkers, here are some tips on how to get along with the new generation of workers, the GenYs, your younger coworkers…

1. Make them think they’re geniuses. Even if they’re not. In general, younger workers have a difficult time adapting to new employees, in particular, OLDER employees. Why? Because  for the most part they’ve been used to socializing with people their own age. Then, when they enter workforce, they’re automatically percieved as those bratty kids that don’t know anything. They’re not asking for a whole lot. They just want others to value them. They want their coworkers to feel that they do in fact bring something to the table. Whether it’s the understanding of technology, or a positive outlook on life, they want to feel that they contribute something to the team. So let them think they’re awesome. Tell them they’re awesome. It’ll make them feel important and they’ll be less likely to hate you.

2. Find something you have in common. Working with people half your age can be a bit strange. Why? Because it’s hard to find common interests. So here’s what you do. YOU GET TO KNOW THEM! Talk to them about their college years. Maybe you studied the same thing in school. Talk to them about their romantic failures, I’m sure they can use all the advice they can get. Maybe find a tv show that you both watch. Talk about traveling. Maybe discuss pets…everyone loves pets. You see, point is that regardless of how completely different you are from everyone you work with, if you look hard enough, I’m sure you can find at least ONE common interest. But please, don’t think that you have to get drunk and go clubbing in order to have something to talk about with your younger coworkers.

3. Ask them about their future. One of the things I’ve discovered while working with people much older than me is that for some reason, I love sharing with others my future dreams and goals. The people that I’m most receptive to are the ones that take a genuine interest in my future and want to help me get there. Whether it’s by throwing opportunities my way or simply providing me with guidance and advice, either way, it’s GREATLY appreciated. So just listen to their stories, listen to their hopes and goals. Some of them could be interesting and you might actually end up learning a thing or two about life.

4. When all else fails, bring them food. Everyone likes free food (ESPECIALLY broke recent college grads). It’s hard to NOT like the person in the office that brings the free food. So do this, and your younger coworkers will love you. If you can provide them with the recipe, they’ll love you even more. 

That’s it. You see? It’s simple.

But here’s the thing…for those of you that read last week’s post, you’ll notice that the tips provided ARE THE SAME!!!

The intention is not to insult or offend anyone. It’s to showcase the fact that in order for different generations to get along in the workforce, people just have to be NICE. We need to get to know the people that we work with and then appeal to their interests and needs. That’s the only way to be successful in life.

What do you think? True or false? Join the conversation. Regardless of whether you’re 12 or 25 or 89, what’s the key to getting along with others at work?

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24 Responses to “How To Get Along With Younger Coworkers”

  1. Caitlin April 25, 2012 at 2:20 pm #

    I think these are great points; and what’s extra great about them is that they’re not just about co-workers. These are things you can use to break the ice with ANYONE. Why do you think people bring pies and baked goods to new neighbors? (Assuming anyone other than me still does that.)

    I agree with you, Kayla. I just don’t see why people can’t be nice and polite to each other all the time. I mean, really. We don’t need to be scared of each other.

  2. Tammy Davis April 25, 2012 at 2:23 pm #

    When I read last week’s post, my first thought was, “That has nothing to do with how old someone is. That’s just people stuff.” You’re right on track with the How-to tips, but I wish you had approached it from the perspective of “people are people, so stop categorizing them as old or young.” Too often we can’t see past the boxes into which we put people and get to the heart of the matter.

    • Kayla Cruz April 25, 2012 at 2:51 pm #

      Absolutely, Tammy! Let’s get to know people as individuals. The world will be a happier place :D hope you’re having a great day!

    • kebperspectives April 25, 2012 at 8:40 pm #

      Tammy, I admire your open mindedness here! I just want to point out that I can see both your point of view and Kayla’s Here is why: Your point does tend to encourage the removal of such age barriers. Kayla’s point of view follows the human condition; we have an innate need to categorize and organize data we have in our brains. Age is a great way of doing that!

      So just in the spirit of your open mindedness, we should all remember that we like to organize information; but perhaps there may be more constructive ways to do so! Then we COULD all get along. Right? :)

  3. 25 and Counting... April 25, 2012 at 2:33 pm #

    Kayla – Love your point on how office relationships at any age go both ways. I have found the most important thing to do is show an interest in someone’s life (inside and outside of work) no matter their age. Everybody has a weekend, ask what they did with theirs. They are bound to mention something that you’ve at least heard of and can comment on. As a 25-year-old writer in the ‘youthful’ field of advertising, I’ve already discovered the distances that older employees may feel with younger ones. Though 21 seems not too far away, in all honestly, I’m not the same person I was a year out of college. I’m wiser. I’m happier. I know how to better articulate my ideas in a meeting. I can use my few years of experience to help my younger co-workers, and break down boundaries between us all. But believe me, that doesn’t stop me from feeling a little ‘old’ sometimes… :)

    • Kayla Cruz April 25, 2012 at 2:54 pm #

      Haha thanks for sharing! Yea, we all have weekends, we all have lives outside the office. It’s nice when we can actually socialize with the people we spend 40+ hours a week with. And I think it’s great that you try to use your few years of experience to help others. Best of luck to you! Sounds like you’re doing great so far :D

  4. Michelle April 25, 2012 at 2:35 pm #

    I’m the young one in my office, and I definitely always feel dumb. If someone made me feel like a genius, I’d love them!

  5. Nowan Zen April 25, 2012 at 2:53 pm #

    I’m kinda in the middle at my office. Not the oldest and not the youngest.

    What I have observed (and seems to create a LOT of tension) is that the older workers have the experience of running the operation successfully for many years (or the business would not exist any longer) and want to feel as though they are still worthy contributors. However, they usually do that by trying to put down and shut down any new ideas and workers as “young bucks trying to push me out.”

    The younger workers, while eager to prove themselves, seem to believe the older workers’ methods and ideas are antiquated and obsolete, and therefore they distance themselves from the older workers by ridiculing them in front of others or behind their backs or both.

    If ALL the workers would understand that each person has much to contribute, the business would run even more successfully.

  6. Bob Woodcock April 25, 2012 at 3:15 pm #

    Great post Kayla! For the record I liked the one last week as well. :)

    In the work I do with my clients we have been seeing that there are very few differences behaviorally among the generations. We see similar behavioral profiles in Gen Y’s as we do in the Baby Boomer’s. The point is that to be effective in the workplace we have to acknowledge the fact that different people have different behaviors. Influencing is all about working in the other person’s world and not our own.

    If you want to be successful in any organization and at any level influence is critical. The only way to influence effectively is to determine what the other person’s needs are. The best way I know to do that is to communicate effectively. That being said…food doesn’t hurt.

  7. paddymcdougall April 25, 2012 at 3:50 pm #

    great companion article, ultimately finding common ground can help build rapport no matter what age. Effective communication has to be 2 way.

    “I’ve learned that people will forget what you said, people will forget what you did, but people will never forget how you made them feel.” Maya Angelou

    ‘seek to understand before being understood’ Stephen Covey

    Only dissappointing thing about there was no cat pictures ;)

  8. Talent and Leader Development April 25, 2012 at 4:53 pm #

    Great and funny post! Another thing I would recommend is initial training with someone older in the company. The first 60 days in a job determine the individual’s success within the company, so the new hire should be guided, nurtured, and mentored by someone who knows the company inside and out. This will also ensure that they are not going to be the young kid that just came in and doesn’t know anything.

  9. Ralph Dopping (@rdopping) April 25, 2012 at 4:54 pm #

    Thinhs that make you go hmmmmm……(oldtimer reference). I know I commented on this one last week too. I totally agree that being nice is the best way to go through life. In fact we all know what you give is what you get. But!

    Here’s my beef with No. 1. Yes, being complimentary is good and it can raise a person’s self worth but I am not a big proponent of telling anyone their a genius (or whatever) unless the give me a reason to. So, if you are motivated, a go getter and are smart and use your intelligence to learn new things and apply them to your job THEN I will gladly call you a genius. Not before.

    I am sure that’s what you meant or implied but you never know.
    Great post! Thanks for making me think…..

  10. amywitkop April 25, 2012 at 5:10 pm #

    I like too like this response to last week.

    I have struggled working with 20 somethings. Not all of them, but some of them.

    I find your insights quite relevant to me.

    I wanted to comment last week, but couldn’t find the right words at the time.

    Here’s what I’m thinking though – if you are in your 20s starting a new job, you shouldn’t assume you know a better way until you see how things are. If you then have a better way find a way to introduce that better way.

    People who do have years of experience – well – they have years of experience and trial and error to rely on, doesn’t mean they shouldn’t be willing to change though. If you are “older” you should also be open to innovation and when you are “older” you aren’t always looking for innovation, you are looking toward the horizon. Change seems too hard, so lighten up and be a little more open.

    20 somethings do have much to teach us about the workplace and about the future of work, but it has to come as a gift and not a punch in the mouth for being the old lady in the office.

    You are awesome. Thank you!

  11. hughcurtler April 25, 2012 at 5:59 pm #

    As an older blogger who reads your blogs, I have no problems with your comments on older workers. You are obviously trying to open lines of communication. Keep us the good work!

  12. Richard Wiseman April 25, 2012 at 6:44 pm #

    For many years as a waiter, barman etc, then for sixteen years as a teacher and now as a temporary worker, both as a young single man and later as an older family man, I have made it my working attitude to consider the people I work with as incidental to what I’m doing. It’s not that I’m horrible or unsociable it’s just that I took the egalitarian attitude of never being interested in any of the people I worked with. I’ve never socialized with people I work with, never been on a works outing, never been to a works party and never made friends with people I worked with; with one notable exception – technically I met my wife at the school I worked at, in the sense that we both lived in the same small town and ran into each other a lot one summer holiday season and having seen each other at work knew each other, (oddly both of us had the same attitude to not socializing with co-workers and neither of us ever went to staff functions!). Whatever the job I’ve always made it clear that my work life was separate to my own life. As for getting on with the people I worked with I treat everybody the same; I help anyone who needs help, ask for help from the appropriate person, regardless of age and I’ve never looked at anyone I worked with, regardless of race, creed, colour, gender, sexuality or age, with anything other than the view that they were just people I worked with. I was never at work to do anything more than the job I was being paid to do. I also never ate food at work, unless it was lunch that I had brought in, because snacking means that energy and ‘stuff’ is dragged away to digest food and that always slows me down. I see what you’re saying about some people at work having attitude, old to young or young to old, but I’d say that the best thing to do is leave one’s personality at home and clothe oneself in a working persona; this is especially true of vocations like teaching. For me work isn’t personal, it’s business and so I never take what anyone says to me at work personally nor do I say anything personal to them. I follow a couple of sound basic rules; ‘always think well of people & follow procedures’.

  13. kebperspectives April 25, 2012 at 8:43 pm #

    I’m very interested that none of the negatives from last week have appeared here on this week’s post. Seems they have been outdone and have nothing intelligent to say THIS time. What a shame that they can’t be constructive commenters to all topics of interest to them…

    Keep up the good work. I love your posts and I believe there is nothing wrong with your perspective or way of doing things. Don’t let others change you if you do not want to do so.

    “NEVER settle for being memorable when you COULD be unforgettable!”

  14. Michelle April 25, 2012 at 9:04 pm #

    “It’s nice to be important but it’s important to be nice”………
    Mutual respect go miles in dealing with anyone, anywhere!

  15. Tina Del Buono, PMAC April 26, 2012 at 12:41 am #

    Great post, and you are right about bringing them food ;)

  16. dcwisdom April 26, 2012 at 5:37 am #

    Well, that’s just plain good advice for everyone! What’s surprising to younger students at the U is when I ask about them, they’re surprised that I’m interested. And then when I introduce myself with my first name, it makes them smile. Today in the student lounge at lunch, the students were singing karaoke. One guy that sang and couldn’t catch a tune in a bucket walked by me. I smiled and said, “Hey, you sang that song all the way through! I’m proud of you and think you were great just getting up there!” You should have seen him smile! Then he sat and visited a minute. He was proud to be noticed. A little encouragement goes a long way.
    Have you ever thought about being a negotiator?

  17. yourlifeforless April 30, 2012 at 8:39 pm #

    I’m among the youngest of my coworkers, and I can definitely vouch for bringing food. If someone brought me food it would make my day!

  18. dofollow backlink March 11, 2013 at 9:58 am #

    superb now word to say on this great post…good share


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