“The whole chair situation makes so much more sense now,” said a woman in a Generations in the Workplace seminar recently.
As many of us looked at her perplexed, she went on to explain, “I bought new chairs for our office. I can’t get those in earlier generations to use them. They said the old ones are just fine. I can’t get the newer generation to quit standing up in them so they can talk to someone over the cubicle wall. I never knew how much headaches new chairs could cause,” she said with a sigh, but also some excitement in having an ah-ha moment over the issue realizing that the events and experiences of each generation impact workplace behavior.
Whereas she saw the older generation concerned with things like prudence (as shaped from living through the great depression and the war years), she saw another generation that felt encumbered by cubicle walls and wanted a workplace much like the homes they were brought up in where casual conversation and open dialogue was encouraged. Standing up in the chairs, even if they were new, didn’t seem to be a big deal. Standing up in the chairs to the prudent generation seemed disrespectful.
What this lady realized was that the chairs had sparked not one, but several, of the 12 generational sticking points that that Haydn Shaw notes in Sticking Points: How to Get the Generations to Work Together in the 12 Places They Come Apart
- Decision Making
- Dress Code
- Fun at Work
- Knowledge Transfer
- Work Ethic
Which sticking point(s) would you chalk the chair situation up to? Which sticking points do you encounter the most in your workplace?
As discussed in this training, the best way to combat these sticking points is to consider whether the issue impacts business necessity or if it simply involves workplace preferences that different generations or just people with different backgrounds, personalities and experiences prefer. Examine what is business necessity by what contributes to your company’s competitive advantage and then make decisions based on business necessity, not workplace preferences. By creating a workplace that is flexible enough for different people to experience their workplace preferences contributes to competitive advantage just as much if not more than workplace policy that is governed by business necessity.